Did You Pray About It?

What do you when you’re running late for work and your car won’t start after 10 minutes of trying? You call for help. Yup! That’s right. I called for help. My initial response was to call my sister, who eventually went down with my younger brother to help me. However, after many attempts, we still couldn’t start the engine. So, I finally called our dad.

When I relayed the problem and the solutions we tried to come up with, he asked me a question that left me speechless for a few seconds. He said “Did you pray about it?” For a moment there, time stood still as the question echoed in my mind. “Did I pray about it? Did I? I think I did. Oh, no! I didn’t!”

I must have mustered some sort of cry to God when the engine wouldn’t start earlier today, but I don’t remember taking time to pause, lift the situation up in prayer, and trusting that God is able to let it work. I was embarassed to admit it but I quickly replied to my dad and said “Oh, I didn’t po. I didn’t pray yet.”

What was I thinking?! Why didn’t I even pause and pray? I then realized how easily I got caught up with the problem that I focused on trying to solve it without even consulting God.

As dad tried to start the car, He reminded me of two things: 1) Importance of Prayer (Mark 9:28-29) and 2) For me to consider buying a small and affordable brand new car, so that I would avoid having these kinds of problems.

Before attempting again, I prayed out loud with my dad beside me. Surprisingly, the car started after! But, when we switched on the aircon, the engine shut off again. This time, we really needed the help of a mechanic.

At that time, I was already preparing myself to accept the fact that I may not have a car for the next few days or weeks and it honestly gave me additional stress. Commuting to and from work isn’t convenient for me, plus, the limited grab and uber rides wouldn’t help. However, it was also during that moment that God reminded me of how everything is His and how He can take things in my life away from me anytime.

When this happens, will I still thank the Lord? How will I choose to respond? Even though today’s events were a bit stressful, I do appreciate how God is very intentional and personal in the way He speaks to me. Had I not experienced the car’s breakdown today, I would have probably continued to take things for granted. I would have forgotten to take time to pray about the decisions that I will be making for the day.

After waiting for a few hours, thankfully, dad was able to find mechanics who were available to assist me at home this afternoon. As I walked over to meet the mechanics, with a heavy yet hopeful heart, I told God: “Lord, would you please have mercy on me? Please allow the men to successfully fix the car today. Thank you.”

For about an hour and a half, the two men worked on the car and fixed it! Woohoo! We just needed to replace the fuel pump! By God’s grace, I didn’t need to leave the car at a repair shop for a long time. I can use it for my errands and activities in the coming days! Huhuhu.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” -Philippians‬ ‭4:6-7‬

I wish I could say that I did good today. But, my initial response wasn’t something that I was or am proud of. I realize that, sometimes, God uses challenging and humbling times to help me shift my focus back to Him. He knows everything about me and He knows what I need. Why would I not choose to seek Him first?

Seek Him first, Nic. Learn from today’s gentle reminder.

My Purple Thai Pants

“If only I could turn back time… if only I could… if only I could.”

I kept singing this song while I was trying to salvage my light blue jeans, blue & white gradient long-sleeved maong, and my light blue off-shoulder top after they were stained by my purple Thai pants.

It was already 10:30 pm and I was just starting to do my laundry for the week. I only had a few clothes in the laundry basket, so I decided to wash all of them in one load. I usually don’t have a problem washing my black clothes with my lighter colored clothes. But, for some reason, even though I knew that my purple Thai pants was still new, I included it in the batch of my laundry two nights ago.

I badly wanted to sleep soon, so I transferred the clothes from the washer to the dryer as soon as the cycle was done. The next few seconds of transferring clothes made my jaw drop and my heart beat faster.

I saw that some of my clothes were purple!!! They were purple!!! Hahaha! At first, I thought that I didn’t see things clearly because I was already very exhausted. But, as I pulled out each fabric stained by the purple dye, I really couldn’t believe my eyes.

What have I done? What was I thinking? How could I have been so stupid?

The three garments affected by the dye were special to me:
1. The light blue jeans is currently the only pair of jeans that I have.
2. The long-sleeved maong top was a new top and was only used once. I also liked how the blue and white colors blended together.
3. The light blue off-shoulder top was the only casual top (not Thai inspired) that I bought from Bangkok in my recent weekend trip.

A part of me got frustrated with myself, while another part of me just laughed at the situation. I even showed the clothes to my brother and sister and said that “At least, my new light purple pants can match my newly dyed blue and light purple maong top.” HAHAHA.

I was tempted to feel angry at myself and at God for allowing it to happen. He could have stopped me from adding the purple pants to the washer before the cycle, but He didn’t.

By God’s grace, He gave me peace and helped me see the good things about the situation:

1. He helped remind me of the fleeting things in this world and how important it is not to get attached to them. I was only able to use the gradient top once and now, unfortunately, I can no longer bring it back to its original state. But, I am reminded that life isn’t about clothes. It isn’t about my possessions or appearance. It’s about finding my true identity and contentment in Christ regardless of the situations I face and mistakes I make.

2. Now, I know very well the importance of being a good steward of my clothes by washing new ones separately at first, especially if they came from stores that sell clothes that didn’t go through high-quality dyeing processes.

3. God doesn’t make mistakes even if I do. So, I can trust that He can use my shortcomings to speak to me and help me grow. Maybe He wanted me to fail at doing laundry tonight so I could remember his faithfulness and grace for me.

4. Lastly, maybe… it was finally time for me to buy a different pair of jeans. A darker one that I can use more often.

Sometimes, God lets us experience contentment in Him through the most random things. Hopefully, the next time around, I will learn from this and act wisely. Thank You, Lord, for new mercies each day… and for my new purplish clothes. Hehehe.

Whew.

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? :)

Ready, Set, Go! My First 10K at Nat Geo Run 2017

“Again, Nicole. Why are you doing this? Hahaha.” I said this to myself many times while I was struggling through my training a few weeks ago. I was a beginner runner who recently accepted the challenge of running 10 kilometers for the first time in my life. Although signing up for the Nat Geo Run at the Mall of Asia this year was very exciting, I did not have any clue about the proper way to run, the best kind of diet for runners, or how to comfortably breathe while running. Nonetheless, one of the valuable lessons I’ve learned throughout this experience is the importance of finishing well no matter how difficult, heartbreaking, or tiring the process is.

After going through eleven 30 to 60-minute interval trainings in a span of six weeks, quick mentoring conversations with seasoned runners, various articles online about preparing for a run, fasting from Starbucks frappuccinos, and riding an emotional rollercoaster this month, by God’s grace, I was able to finish running (and occasionally briskwalking) 10 kilometers around Pasay city. For someone who enjoys working out by following instructors in workout videos, running a long distance race outside was a challenging yet refreshing treat. But, without a doubt, I will be joining the succeeding marathons in the coming years.

Until now, I still have a hangover from the recent running event. Even my body clock’s still pretty messed up too, since I needed to wake up at 2 am on the day of the run. However, because it was a memorable experience, I’ll be sharing some of the highlights for me as I prepared and ran in this year’s Nat Geo Run. Hopefully, this will encourage you to willingly welcome challenges and faith-stretching moments not only in marathons, but in life as well.

 

BEFORE THE RACE:

1. Interval Trainings

For beginner runners, it is advisable to train at least once a week for 5K and at least three times a week for 10K. In my case, I used an app called “Running” which suggests a training plan recommended for a specific distance that I’m training for. The plan I used for six weeks started with 30-minute interval trainings which then progressed to 40-minute, 50-minute, and 60-minute trainings. The interval training I did consisted of both running and briskwalking.

2. Healthier Diet

I have to admit that I wasn’t strict in maintaining a healthy diet throughout the 6-week training. However, I did let go of one major unnecessary drink which eventually helped me jog and run better. Yes, I gave up my Kryptonite, Starbucks Frappuccinos. Surprisingly, after removing this from my diet, I didn’t crave for it anymore even until today. It does help to lessen calories and sugar especially if it won’t be beneficial to the body. I also was intentional in adding more fruits and vegetables to my meals and in taking in more than 2 liters of water everyday.

3. Support System

It also encouraged me to be surrounded by family and friends who cheered me on from the start of my training up until the race day itself. At first, I was already satisfied with running for 5 kilometers, but, one of my closest friends challenged me to do 10K instead. Also, my very supportive sisters woke me up at 2am on the day of the race to make sure that I wouldn’t be late.

 

DURING THE RACE:

1. Minding my Own Pace

I could sense how eager everyone was when we started to run. A bunch of happy and motivated 10K runners were determined to finish the race. However, after 10 minutes, I began to notice changes in the crowd. Some were slowing down, some were sprinting, others were lining up in the portable restrooms along the way, while others maintained their original speed. There were times when others would run faster than me and I would notice my legs running more quickly. Other times, when I would run beside runners who breathed heavily and were obviously very tired, I would somehow feel weighed down too. It was very interesting to see how quickly I accelerated or slowed down when I focused on the pace of other runners. But, when I decided to look ahead and run at a pace that worked for me, it freed me from feeling pressured and anxious.

2. Finding Strength in Weakness

Two weeks before the race day, I wasn’t doing well. Because of a number of difficult personal concerns that I needed to deal with, I wasn’t able to continue my training. As a result, I didn’t even have the appetite to eat for two weeks and my mind wandered off a couple of times in a day because of my distress. However, a few days before the marathon, God reminded me of the weeks of training that I did before and how I shouldn’t give up on it. He also showed me how it is still possible to run 10K despite having a weak body and spirit – by His strength which is magnified in my weakness. Not because of my ability to run, but because of His grace for me. I did show up that day and I did my best to finish the race.

Interestingly, while I was halfway through the race, I saw a man who was briskwalking while holding two walking sticks. I wasn’t sure if he was blind, but I was very much inspired by his determination to finish the race in spite of having a physical disability. God used that moment to encourage me to continue persevering even during difficult moments in life. There’s really no room for excuses. It just boils down to making a choice, either to give in to our weakness or to persevere as we trust in God who is able to help us finish well despite our weakness.

3. Stopping Over

There were about four water and Gatorade stations all throughout the 10K route. Those stations were my second favorite part of the race. My first favorite part is of course, the finish line. Haha. I still remember how I felt every time I saw the water station from afar. Just a small cup of cold water or Gatorade reenergizes and gives you an extra boost to go farther. I probably would not have finished well if I did not drink every 2 or 3 kilometers. (Thank you, sponsors: Summit and Gatorade. Although, for the next events, the event organizers may want to add more waste bins.)

4. Documenting Progress

Another thing that helped me persevere was being reminded of my progress along the way. The app that I was using, Running, was updating me every time I reached a kilometer. For me, I needed it because it gave me a bigger picture of the progress I’ve made so far. It also served as a slow countdown for me. I remember struggling through the first 3-4 kilometers, but when I saw the sign that showed “5K”, I started to feel more motivated. Then, I struggled again during the 6-7K run, but when I heard from the app that I already reached 8 and 9 kilometers, it didn’t seem that difficult anymore.

5. Encouraging Others

I already ran 9 kilometers by the time a random runner was sprinting ahead of us. He caught my attention because as he was sprinting, he joyfully exclaimed “Konti na lang!! Kaya natin ito!!”. In English, he said: “Just a few more meters!! We can do this!!”. The runners near me and I started to smile and laugh when we heard him say those words. But, looking back, it was really an encouraging moment for all of us. Even though the man was surrounded by strangers, that didn’t stop him from encouraging others to finish well with him. What a nice picture of our last few moments in the race. Before we knew it, we were already at the finish line! How I hope to encourage others to finish well too.

After the marathon, I spent time walking around to cool myself down and I expressed my gratitude to the Lord for a fun and meaningful experience for me. It was then that I realized how He graciously allowed me to enjoy preparing for and joining the race.

I arrived at the assembly line three minutes before the gunstart time.

I was able to witness interesting moments during the race.

I was able to feel the familiar pains and joys while I was running as I remembered all those nights of training.

I was even given the privilege of having a nice photo taken by one of the photographers at the event. (Thank you, Mr. Photographer, for capturing that one second of me giving two thumbs up while I was running in front of you. Awesome shutter speed and skills. Haha)

I was also able to enjoy freebies after the run, including a baby cup of Starbucks Frappuccino (how ironic!).

What a lovely first run! If it isn’t obvious yet, I really enjoyed it. Somehow, I feel that God really wanted me to still run and finish the race even though I wasn’t feeling well (in many aspects) a few days before the event. I’m glad I decided to push through because I would have missed out on His blessings and the many things I shared with you if I didn’t go. It is only by His grace that I was able to get out of bed at 2 in the morning and go through the activity that day. Now, I am even more encouraged to keep on persevering and trusting that even in my weakness, God can still help me start and finish the things that He wants me to accomplish, for His glory.

The verse that encouraged me to press on during the race:

“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” –Philippians 3:13-14

As long as you’re still breathing, it’s not too late to try. It’s not too late to trust God as you grow through challenges and finish well. You just have to choose to do it.

Well…

Ready, set, go!