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.”

Courageous Caitie Launches Courageous Light

“There are moments that the words don’t reach. There is suffering too terrible to name. You hold your child as tight as you can and push away the unimaginable.”

These lines were taken from Lin Miranda’s song “It’s Quiet Uptown” from the American musical, Hamilton. I’ve been listening to the album for a few weeks now and I always take a deep sigh whenever I hear this particular song. In this tune, the main characters grieve over the loss of their child and other disheartening situations they experienced. It showed the reality of pain and how we feel and deal with it.

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I then remembered the story and life of  Courageous Caitie and how her parents (Jay Jay and Tine Lucas) and family shared their hearts, lives, and experiences to us earlier this year.

Their three-year old daughter, Caitie, was diagnosed last March 2016 with Juvenile Myelomonocytic Leukemia (JMML), a rare cancer of the blood affecting infants and toddlers. Last March 30, her family posted an update on Courageous Caitie’s Facebook page which said: “Today our daughter has gone to Jesus already.”

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It has been been quite a roller-coaster ride for the Lucas family these past few months. But, by the grace of God, they still continue to share God’s love, goodness, grace, and power to people from all over the world. One of the many opportunities that God has given the Lucas family is a movement that aims to help families of children with illnesses find God’s hope and purpose. Last Saturday, their family launched this movement called “Courageous Light”.

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It was a privilege for me to witness the family gather relatives, friends, and strangers at the Gateway Mall Activity Center where they celebrated the life and legacy of Caitie. Here are some of the highlights of the launch last weekend:

 

1. STAR WARS – Star Wars characters showed a demo of how they used their lightsabers. The men and women part of the groups, The 501st Legion and FightSaber, also visit children in hospitals to help share the joy. They joined Caitie in distributing materials and visiting other kids in the hospital a few months ago too. (In the photo below: Jay Jay Lucas and Lem Enriquez hosting the event)

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2. VIDEOS – Videos of Caitie and her parents and family were shared to the audience. These videos included the first birthday of Caitie, hospital visits, interviews of her parents, wake services in the Philippines and in Singapore, and compilations of photos.

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3. GOD’S WORD – Mr. John Ong shared God’s Word and what it means to have Jesus in our hearts and lives; to have Him as our personal Lord and Savior.

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4. GALLERY OF PHOTOS – The family showcased a beautiful gallery of Caitie and their family. From the time she was born up until her heartwarming moments in the hospital with her parents, brother, and relatives. They also shared some of Caitie’s artworks, clothes, shoes, and things by displaying them on two tables (covered in glass) inside the activity center.

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5. LIGHT CEREMONY – The couple distributed cupcakes to those who were in the activity center and they encouraged everyone to participate in blowing the candles to celebrate Caitie’s birthday. In the video below, you’ll hear how Jay Jay shared that the light represents Jesus and that it was their desire to encourage more and more people to keep on sharing the light (Jesus) to those around us.

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6. GOSPEL TREES – They posted large photos of painted trees without leaves. It was the task of the participants to paint the leaves using their fingertips. There were five trees in that area which represented these: HEAVEN (Yellow), OUR SINS (Black), GOD’S LOVE FOR US (Red), , NEW LIFE IN CHRIST (White), and GROWTH (Green). This gallery shared about God’s love, hope, and salvation for us.

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7. COURAGEOUS LIGHT POSTCARDS – These postcards are printed Bible verses illustrated by different Filipino artists to remind us of the power of God’s Word. There were 100 selected postcards that were divided into four volumes. One volume is being sold at Php 495 each. The proceeds from these postcards will be used to fund materials for hospital visits and other events that can help families support their children with illnesses. They also sell other merchandise like notebooks, toys, shirts, etc.

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8. COURAGEOUS LIGHT VOLUNTEERS (a.k.a. Troopers) – The people who worked behind the scenes; those who helped with the program, posters, artworks, decorations, set-up of photos displayed, preparation of materials and merchandise, lights and sounds; the prayer warriors, those who committed to join the team in their hospital visits; and many more. Everyone did a great job! Praise God!

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While I was going around the activity center during the event, I caught glimpses of the couple and how they interacted with friends and strangers. Some of the guests who went there brought their child/children with illnesses to seek comfort from Jay Jay and Tine. It was very heartwarming to see the couple graciously welcome, encourage, and share Jesus to them that afternoon. They continued to point to Jesus for the source of joy, hope, peace, and security even during difficult moments. WOW.

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Just before I went to another part of the gallery, I saw that the couple was being interviewed by one of the reporters in the area. As I watched them eagerly share, I thought to myself “Wow. Many years ago, they wouldn’t have imagined going through what they went through these past three years. But, despite the pain and loss, God’s love, hope, and grace continues to shine through the hearts and lives of the Lucas family. Even though I don’t get to communicate with them often, I am very much encouraged by them to keep my eyes on Christ even if I stumble or go through major bumps along the way.

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“You hold your child as tight as you can and push away the unimaginable.” [The Musical: Hamilton]

In the case of the Lucas family, they aren’t pushing away the unimaginable. By God’s grace, they are going through it; witnessing God’s hand at work in the lives of hundreds of thousands who are being blessed by their testimony of God’s goodness. And this new movement that they are starting is just the beginning of another opportunity to share Jesus to the world. Thank you, Lucas family, for continuously stepping out in faith and trusting in the Lord. I pray that He would embrace you, give you wisdom, strengthen you, keep you from falling into pride or sin, and guide you as you honor Him with the resources He has blessed you with.

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“Don’t let your lights go down. Don’t let your fire burn out.
‘Cause somewhere, somebody needs a reason to believe

So when you get the chance, are you gonna take it?
There’s a really big world at your fingertips and you know you have the chance to change it.”

-Britt Nicole’s “The Lost Get Found”

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” –Ephesians 3:20-21

 

The gallery will be displayed at the Gateway Mall Activity Center until August 13, 2016. But, for the succeeding Saturdays (until Sept. 3), there will be activities for parents and kids. Feel free to drop by! For more details, you may visit the Facebook pages of Courageous Caitie and Today with the Lucas!

Of Grace and Phone Giveaways

I find it ironic that I took up Entrepreneurship back in college because generally speaking, I was and still am not a risk-taker. I’m the type of person who always orders the same Java Chip Frappuccino at Starbucks since I first tasted it eight years ago. I don’t go out on the streets and eagerly persuade people to buy products from me nor do I naturally confront people whenever I have concerns. I guess it has something to do with my personality as an introvert. So, when random, crazy, and risky ideas pop in my mind, it’s very hard for me to ignore them.

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A few nights ago, while I was driving home, I felt a strong nudge on my heart to give away the phone that I no longer use because I recently upgraded to a new one. Selling the old phone wasn’t an option for me when I thought about it that night, even if it would have been very practical and helpful. Somehow, it was crystal clear that God wanted me to give it to someone who needs a phone soon.

I couldn’t stop thinking about it even after I arrived at home. So, I prayed about it and I was led to post a status online that same night about the phone giveaway. I gave my Facebook friends two nights to leave a comment if they needed a phone or if they knew someone who did. I also mentioned that I would be randomly picking a name to announce the winner. Honestly, I expected a few comments that had “Me!” or “Yes! I need one!” on my status. But, after two days, most of the 28 friends who left comments shared heartfelt stories about their desire to bless their family members, friends, and even strangers. Somehow, I got to know their hearts even more through what they shared online. It was encouraging.

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After the reading comments, I wanted to give each one of them a secondhand phone. But, for obvious reasons, I couldn’t. And so, I lifted them up in prayer instead because I knew that God was and is more than able to provide for their needs. The night before I announced the winner, I received a lot of comments from different people on how I should pick the winner for that phone. Some gave their votes for specific people who left comments, while others expressed their disappointment towards those who left “less meaningful” comments. However, God reminded me of the idea that He placed in my mind that night while I was driving home. He specifically impressed on my heart to RANDOMLY pick a winner for that phone. So, even if I wanted to give the phone to a certain person, I decided to draw lots the day after.

 

When the time came for me to announce the winner, I recorded a live video on Facebook to encourage the viewers and to show them the process of selecting the new owner of my pre-loved phone. Doing a live video is a nightmare for an introvert. Okay, maybe the other introverts wouldn’t mind it. But, it wasn’t natural for me. Hahaha. However, it was one of the most humbling experiences that I had this year because it was an opportunity for me to share God and His grace and provision to random viewers online. Sometimes, I’m learning that you just have to step out of your comfort zone, step out in faith, and believe that God is able to use ordinary people like you and me to be a blessing and to share Jesus to those around us.

Congratulations, Ode! You won the phone. :) Woohoo!

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The day after I chose the winner, I still kept thinking about those that left comments on my status. In particular, I had one friend (RJ) in mind who left a comment that deeply touched my heart. Because of this, even though I didn’t plan on giving away another secondhand phone that I had, God encouraged me to do so this week. I remembered that I still had a Nokia C7 (in good condition) inside my drawer. That phone has been inside my drawer for over a year now and immediately, I thought that it would be better if someone else will use it from now on. I sent a personal message to RJ on Facebook and shared to him about what God encouraged me to do.

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Today, I met up with the two friends that were chosen for the phone. Before I gave them the phones, we talked about God’s grace and how He is able to meet our needs. It was such a refreshing time to catch up with them and be encouraged by this experience. My friend, Ode, shared that this experience is helping her draw closer to the Lord. While, RJ shared that his friend (who was a student missionary) has been praying for a phone recently, so this secondhand phone would really help him a lot! He also shared that recently, he has been encouraging his friend to fully depend on the Lord’s provision. So, this experience was very timely.

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After we parted ways, my heart felt like it was going to burst because of the overflowing joy and peace in me. By God’s grace, He allowed me to have the privilege of sharing His blessings and being an encouragement to my friends this week. But, more than that, God reminded me of His unfailing love and grace for you and me. These are just material things that would soon fade away. But, many years ago, God showed us His grace by sending His son, Jesus, to die on the cross and to rise again just so we could spend eternity with Him in Heaven. We didn’t need to leave comments on God’s Facebook status. We didn’t have to explain our past, present struggles, and stories to Him. We didn’t even have to pay for the penalty of our wrongdoings. Even before we were born, He already chose to love, forgive, and give us  (sinners) His grace through Jesus! We just need to humble ourselves before Him, acknowledge our sinful ways, and receive Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” –Ephesians 2:8-9

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In the live video that I recorded on Facebook, I mentioned that God knows our hearts more than we do. It’s true. I may not know you personally or what your heart is going through right now. But, I want to encourage you as well to take some time today to get to know your Maker, our Father who loves us deeply. Did you know that you are dearly loved by Him? I hope you do.

Have a grace-filled week ahead! Keep on sharing His grace to others!

Thank God I Failed

Have you ever experienced exerting so much effort on a certain project or goal only to watch it fail in the end? Well, I have. For those of you who know me, you understand that gardening is very close to my heart. One of the most disheartening experiences I’ve had was when I saw my watermelon vine slowly deteriorate during the rainy season. Despite my attempts to keep the beautiful leaves and watermelon flower buds dry and safe from the constant heavy rain, it just didn’t survive.

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Slowly, I saw the flowers turn from green to light green to yellow to brown. I took a deep sigh after I realized that it could no longer be revived. The dream of growing a watermelon at home was washed away by the rain as well. What a bummer. I think it took a couple of days for me to finally let go of what happened.

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Even before I planted the seed, I knew that we were approaching the rainy season already and it wasn’t advisable for fruiting vines. If I only waited for a few more months, it would have been possible to grow the fruit in a container. But, I failed. I failed to grow a watermelon at home. Nonetheless, I still thank God that I did because it helped me to be wiser in the way I use the resources that I had. It also encouraged me to still put my confidence in Him and in His perfect timing even in my gardening adventures.

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Seven months after that incident, by faith, I decided to plant a melon seed. This time, I planted it at the start of the year, so I was sure that it wouldn’t encounter daily heavy rains anymore. After taking care of the vine for two and a half months, by God’s grace, I was able to harvest my first homegrown melon at home. While I was eating a slice of the sweet melon, I couldn’t help but feel overjoyed because it finally happened! I also remember telling my siblings how mind-blowing and heartwarming it was to eat fresh fruits and vegetables grown at home.

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Through this experience, I was reminded of my former blog post about growing watermelon at home and how God’s timing is always perfect. Yes, it may have been rough for me at first, especially when I saw that my efforts were “put to waste”. However, I’m learning that disappointments, failures, and discouragements will always be around. But, these things shouldn’t give us an excuse to stop trying and doing our best again. What I appreciate about disappointments and failures too is that we get to have opportunities that help us grow more in wisdom, knowledge, and character.

Mary Pickford once said “If you have made mistakes, even serious ones, there is always another chance for you. What we call failure is not the falling down but the staying down.”

Maybe some of you are also going through a rough situation. Maybe some of you have experienced failure recently. I want to encourage you today to get back up again and keep on doing your best. By God’s grace, you can! I pray that in spite of the pain or struggle you may be feeling, you will still find hope in the goodness of the Lord.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
 in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

-Proverbs 3:5-6

Note: I’ll share more about the process and experience of growing melons at home in another blog post. :)