A Gift from Boyce Avenue

The craziest thing happened last night. I received a surprise gift from my favorite band, Boyce Avenue. Whaaaaaaat?!!! It all started when my parents came home from their small group meeting at church. As soon as they entered the front door, my dad said “Nicolas! We have a surprise for you!” I greeted both my parents and gave them a weird stare because we weren’t celebrating anything and surprises in the family usually happen during special occasions.

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Nonetheless, I eagerly asked my dad if they got me a plant! Hahaha. I love plants or anything connected to gardening, so it was the first thing that popped in my mind. However, dad asked me to look inside the paper bag instead. To my surprise, I saw two drumsticks in it! I shrieked because they were giving me my very first pair of drumsticks! For the longest time, I have been playing beats using chopsticks or my imaginary drumsticks on my imaginary set of drums. Haha. So, seeing the pair of sticks made my heart skip a beat!

Before I could further express my happiness, my dad added “Anak, it’s not just a pair of drumsticks. It has something written on it.” I couldn’t believe what I saw as I pulled out the sticks from the bag. There was a dedication written on it which says: “Nicole. Thanks for the support. –Jason”. By this time, my eyes grew bigger and I shouted “WHAAAAAAAT!!!! HOW??? WOOOOOW!!! This is from the official drummer of Boyce Avenue, Jason Burrows! Oh myyyyyyyyyy!!!!”

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My parents and siblings who were also in the living room started to laugh because it really was a crazy moment for me. They knew how much I love Boyce Avenue, so having this privilege of receiving a gift from them was such a huge moment for me! I started to tear up and shake because I still couldn’t believe that Jason gave me a pair of drumsticks that he used during the Be Somebody Tour in the Philippines about a month ago.

After a few minutes of laughing, shouting, and dancing in the living, I noticed a laminated I.D. with a strap in the same paper bag. As I looked closely, I saw three familiar signatures and my name written on it. In addition to the signed pair of drumsticks, Boyce Avenue also signed an ID with my name written on it. CRAZY. It was so crazy! Hahaha. I was jumping up and down, hugging our dogs, happily sobbing, and shouting for joy when I realized what was happening.

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My parents then shared that the gifts sent to me were graciously prepared by one of our longtime family friends who had the opportunity to closely work with Boyce Avenue during their tour this year. THANK YOU, TITA W!!! As soon as I could, I expressed my gratitude to her by sending her a text message and I thanked my parents for delivering the gift to me. Before we went to our bedrooms, I told my family “Now, tell me. How will I be able to sleep tonight? Hahahaha! Grabe si God!”

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I only had 5 hours of sleep last night, but it didn’t matter because of the grace that I experienced through my family and our family’s friends. Through this, God allowed me to experience His grace and remember that He is our God who can do impossible things. I never imagined this to happen in my life. I am in awe of how God continues to reveal Himself to me and pursue my heart even through my favorite band.

I am reminded of Ephesians 3:20-21 where it says:

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.”

Boyce Avenue

Yesterday morning, while I was walking to work, I had a refreshing conversation with the Lord. Recently, I’ve been thinking about my personal goals and dreams in life which somehow caused my heart to get discouraged. Instead of praying about them this week, I got distracted by how the people around me seemed to reach their own goals and dreams easily. I knew that it wasn’t healthy for me to continue comparing myself with others, so I confessed it to God and I asked Him yesterday to help my heart find contentment in Him.

He then encouraged my heart to let go of being stressed and pressured by the standards of the society and to draw closer to Him, His Word, and His promises for me. I also remembered John 10:10 and was reminded of God’s desire for me to live an abundant life with Him. Sometimes, it’s so easy for me to want recognition, financial blessings, or to quickly achieve and become successful in my personal goals. But, I am humbled and inspired by God to pursue Him instead, because the things I previously mentioned are temporary. His Word and His love for you and me, however, will be for eternity.

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As soon as I got to the office, I mustered a quick prayer to God and asked Him to help me find contentment in Him and to live the life that He has blessed me with in a way that is pleasing to Him. I didn’t know that He was already preparing my heart for the surprise that I received last night.

I told God that last night’s experience was a funny and humbling moment for me. I really was happy with the idea of receiving a plant. But, He gave me more than what I expected! When I was sincerely overjoyed with the pair of drumsticks, He added a cherry on top by showing me that it wasn’t just an ordinary pair. And when I was already extremely grateful for the signed drumsticks, He let me see the laminated ID with the band’s autographs (which I wasn’t able to get when I met them a month ago because the band only had a few minutes to spare).

Only He can do such amazing things. Wow, Lord. Even though I know that You know the deepest desires and struggles of my heart, You still leave me speechless. :’)

P.S. Dear Boyce Avenue and Jason Burrows, thank you soooooo much! :)

Boyce Avenue Live in Manila 2016

The night before the concert of Boyce Avenue in Manila last week, I thought I lost Php 10,000. After withdrawing Php 500 from the atm machine near our office, I noticed that the receipt showed a deduction of Php 10,000 from my account. Immediately, I felt a rush of panic in me and called the hotline of the bank to inform them about the incident. Thankfully, the operator assured me that it was only a glitch in the machine’s printer. When I checked my account online later that evening, true enough, only Php 500 was deducted from my card. Whew!

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Before I went to bed that evening, I thought about what just happened. While waiting for the operator’s response, what if I got disappointed with God because of the hassle? Would I have reacted differently if I did lose Php 10,000 that night? Somehow, God used that quick moment to show me the condition of my heart. He also reminded me of how true contentment is found only in Him, not in material things, relationships, or even the prayer requests that we have.

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I can say that it was a timely encouragement for me because I was preparing my heart for my favorite band’s concert the next day. Similar to my previous experiences with the concerts of Boyce Avenue, I still had the desire to meet and greet the band again even if I didn’t know how it would be possible. So, that night, I prayed about it and surrendered my request to God.

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On the day of the concert, I kept sharing to my officemates that I felt butterflies in my stomach. Even if I saw them twice before, it was still an exciting idea for me to see them in person and watch them perform again! When I got to the venue, I still had a couple of hours to spare. So, I spent some time expressing my gratitude to God.

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Around 8 pm, I went inside the coliseum and watched an Australian boy band named “At Sunset” and Savannah Outen perform their original songs as the opening act for the night. An hour later, the Manzano brothers finally went on stage and played around 20 songs for the next hour and a half. Woohoo!!!

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As always, Alejandro Manzano’s voice and guitar skills were superb. I found out later on that fifteen minutes before the show started, they decided to squeeze in two songs which were performed by Alejandro. With only a few minutes of practice that day, he was able to pull off flawless renditions of Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” and Ellie Goulding’s “Love Me Like You Do”. Amazing. Haha!

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Of course, Fabian and Daniel Manzano entertained the crowd as well by showing their talents in playing the guitar, bass, and percussions. They also did back-up vocals in most of the songs. The concert was simple yet exciting because they played a mix of their recent covers, most popular covers, and some of the newly released original songs that they’ve been working on. One of their original songs that caught my attention was “Cinderella”. Also, the way they used the lights and smoke machines didn’t distract the crowd from enjoying the music. Aaaaahhh! It was a lovely and relaxing evening, indeed.

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After the show, the Manzano brothers immediately proceeded to their dressing room and slowly, the crowd exited the coliseum. At this moment, my heart was beating fast because even though I really wanted to meet them again, I didn’t know how. I was hoping to see one of the bouncers that I met during their concert last year, but he wasn’t around. I also wasn’t able to approach my dad’s friend who works at the production company because she was already inside the backstage area, assisting the bands and guests.

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For a few seconds, I thought to myself. “Wow, Nicole. I guess, that’s it. Sometimes, you get to meet the band. Sometimes, you don’t.” Honestly, I felt a bit disappointed because there was no sign of hope. But, somehow, God reminded me of my prayer that week. I remember telling God that He is God and He is able to make a way for me to meet the band after the show if He wants to. And then, I also remembered the lesson he taught me the night before about being content regardless of the situation I’m in.

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As I stood by myself at the side of the stage, I mustered a quick prayer to God. If it was His will for me to meet the band and have a picture with them again, I prayed for wisdom. After praying, God reminded me of one of our family friends, an aunt, who also worked in the production company. I checked my phone to see if I still had her contact number and I did! Hahaha. Without any hesitation, I called her number and asked if she was in the area. She asked where I was and after I answered, our phone call got cut. I didn’t know what was happening at that time, but a few seconds later, I saw her coming out of the backstage towards me. She grabbed my wrist and we both walked quickly inside.

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I felt like crying. Hahahaha!

To sum up the next events that happened later that night:

I was able to spend time talking with our family friends backstage (Tita W, Tita C, and Tito R).

I had a photo taken with the band “At Sunset” while waiting for the Manzano brothers.

I saw my bouncer friend again! I met him when I went to the Beauty and the Beast musical and Boyce Avenue’s concert years ago.

I was able to get inside the VIP lounge where other guests were staying.

I had a selfie with Jason Burrows (their drummer).

Finally, I was able to hug, greet, and have a photo taken with Boyce Avenue again.

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Yaaaaaay! Compared to last year’s meet and greet, they only had a few minutes to take photos with the guests in the lounge. I guess it was because of their early flight the next day. They still had four more shows in the country! Nonetheless, my heart felt like it was going to burst. After thanking our family friends for graciously allowing me to join them backstage, I went inside the car parked in the nearby parking lot. Before I started the car’s engine, I screamed and shouted “Lord, grabe talaga Kayo! You are amaziiing!”.

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As I drove home, God encouraged me to keep on dreaming big things because He is able to do big things in and through me. In the recent months, I struggled with certain issues that discouraged my heart from doing so. Generally, I felt that I was inadequate and insignificant. But, by God’s grace, He’s reminding me to find strength and true contentment in Him (not in myself or others) as I soak my heart in His Word and promises.

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A few hours before the concert, I shared a verse on Facebook which says: “He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20). I posted it online because I wanted to encourage myself and others to not give up even when we only have an ounce of faith in our hearts. In whatever situation we are in, when we place our faith in our big God, He is able to do things that can only be possible through Him.

Here’s to more Boyce Avenue concerts and faith-stretching experiences with You, Lord. From the bottom of my heart, I thank You!

When Insecurities Strike

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

Recently, a friend said something to me that crushed my heart. That friend didn’t mean to do so, but because the words triggered my past struggle with insecurity, it affected me so much this week. Even though I knew that it was just a joke, I started to believe in the lies in my head and the thoughts distorted my view of God.

During the week, I spent a lot of time pouring my heart out to God and I kept reminding myself of the truth: that God loves me and that my hope and security can only be found in Him. However, despite this, I still felt a huge burden on my heart even while I was asleep. There were times when I would wake up in the wee hours of the morning and feel my heart break again.

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But, by God’s grace, He spoke to me one night while I was writing on my journal. I shared to Him that I think my top love language is “Words”. It fills me whenever people encourage me with words (e.g. in person, through social media or letters, etc.). On the other hand, whenever hurtful words are said to me, my heart cringes.

While I was sharing my feelings and struggle to God, He revealed to me the pride that was lingering in my heart. Why was I so affected by what my friend said? Why do I dwell on what others tell me? Why do I easily get hurt when people intentionally or unintentionally magnify my flaws and weaknesses or compare me to others through their words?

And then, it hit me. My thoughts and feelings were all about me. ME!! Immediately, God humbled me and I confessed the pride in my heart. I also asked God to help me honor Him with my heart and mind. That night, I was reminded that at the end of each day, it doesn’t matter how I compare to the people around me. It doesn’t matter how well I did or didn’t do at work or in my personal activities. It’s not even about how much I’m doing for Christ in ministry. It’s about what Jesus has already done for us. Because of God’s love, Jesus died and rose again to pay for the penalty of our sins, so we could spend eternity with Him in Heaven.

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“Did you hear what I said? Did you read the words I wrote down in red? I was broken once for you and no one loves you like I do.” –‘All the Broken Pieces’ by Matthew West

Nothing should concern me more than my relationship with God. Nothing.

Instead of being affected by what others say to me, God encouraged me to focus on His words and truths found in the Bible. His voice is the only thing we need to hear. Every now and then, I know that I will be tempted to feel insecure. But, I am encouraged by God to keep on remembering who He is in my life. The same God who created the universe and everything in it is the same sovereign and powerful God who can make beautiful things out of ordinary people like you and me. The same God who gave and sacrificed His Son for us is the same loving and gracious God who will continue to love us in spite of our imperfections, struggles, and mistakes.

Whew.

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After going through an emotional roller coaster ride this week, I woke up this morning with a grateful heart because of the hope that I have in Jesus. By His grace, He made today an extra special day for me because my friends from church (the ladies I’m growing with in a discipleship group) surprised me with a pot of flowers and verses to encourage me. They knew that I was struggling this week, so they made a simple but very encouraging effort to help me focus on Jesus again. I loved it so much because it affirmed my decision last night to dwell on God’s truth and His words in the Bible. Aaaaahhhh. You are amazing, God!

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It is my prayer that I may not only seek Him and His words this week, but, that He may also help me say words to the people around me that will edify and encourage them to remember and pursue God as well.

Psalm 19:14 “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

Breathe In, Breathe Out

I went out for a walk after dinner tonight because I needed some fresh air. I brought my camera with me and tried to take photos of the trees nearby and the stars that were twinkling up in the dark blue sky. After numerous attempts to take photos of the stars, I ended up with mediocre ones. In the photos, the stars were blurry and the sky was gray. I felt discouraged because I couldn’t adjust the settings correctly. Moreover, since I didn’t have a tripod, I had a difficult time making sure it was positioned still for 5 to 30 seconds.

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However, despite not having successful photos of the stars tonight, I had a refreshing walk outside. While I was taking photos and experimenting on the settings of the camera, I discovered a few more features that I forgot it had. It had various creative filters that display the ff. effects: soft focus, fish-eye, art bold, watercolor, toy camera, and miniature. Also, it was my first time to notice a simple feature: the camera’s panel illumination button, which lights up the panel’s screen when needed. After three months of using the camera, I only found out about these things tonight. It’s embarrassing, I know. -__- Because I didn’t intentionally spend time learning more about the camera in the last three months, I missed out on maximizing its settings and features. It was as if simply taking photos and adjusting the lens were enough. Aaaahhh!

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Tonight, I was reminded of the hundreds or even thousands of opportunities that I can do with the camera considering its nice features. But, this won’t be possible if I don’t discipline myself in developing my knowledge about the equipment and practice applying the techniques. If the inventor of this particular model saw me using the camera right now, he’d be pretty disappointed. He knows the camera’s potential. He designed and made it the way it is to help photographers experience the best when it comes to documenting moments, sceneries, portraits, and many more. It would be a waste to take it for granted. On my way back home, I was motivated to finally pursue knowing and maximizing the camera this year. So, I am keeping myself accountable to you.

Trying out one of the creative filters.
Trying out one of the creative filters.

I really appreciate the short walk that I had outside because it also helped me see the importance of understanding and living out my purpose by knowing my Creator first. Just like my experience with the camera, I know that God created me the way I am for a special reason. He knows my “features” and limitations and He knows how to maximize them for my good and for His glory. I can go on everyday doing what I usually do or what I know, but if I don’t spend time knowing God and His plans through His Word, I will certainly miss out on experiencing Him and His best for me.

 

A simple daily exercise: Take a walk outside and breathe.

Breathe in God’s Word. Breathe out prayers.

 

“Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.”-Jeremiah 33:3

Photo taken in Baguio last Dec. 27, 2015
Photo taken in Baguio last Dec. 27, 2015