3 Things I Learned from Ice Skating at SM Megamall

It has been more than two years since the last time I skated on ice. I’m not a professional skater, but by God’s grace, I can glide through ice. When my friends invited me to skate yesterday, I got excited because I knew that it would be a fun activity. When I arrived at the skating rink, it looked like it was closed because the lights were turned off. But, I noticed that a lot of people were still skating inside. So, I asked one of their staff members what was happening and she responded by saying: “Ma’am, we just experienced a power shutdown. It started 10 minutes ago and we’re not sure when we’ll have electricity again. You can still try to skate but it might be more slippery.”

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I just stared at her and said “Ohhh. Okay. Thank you!” I walked around the area with a puzzled look on my face. It just didn’t make sense: Brownout + Ice Skating in Manila. Of all the days. Haha. While waiting for my friends to arrive, I went to the comfort room to take a break. Inside, I told God that I knew that He could turn the power back on in a heartbeat if He wanted to. So, even if I was starting to feel a bit disappointed with the situation, somehow, God encouraged me not to fret about it. I also told Him that in case He really didn’t want us to skate that day, I prayed that He would help us choose our next activities wisely.

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After a few minutes, my friends arrived at the place and we decided to line up and buy tickets even if it the rink still didn’t have power. We looked at the rink and saw that the daylight shining through the huge windows provided enough light for the skaters. So, we gave it a try. You wouldn’t believe what happened next. As soon as we stepped on the rubber mat at the entrance of the rink, they turned on he lights! My friends and I looked at each other and shouted: “Whooooaaaa! Ang galing ni God. He really wanted us to skate today! Hahaha.”

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It was just so cool (literally too). When I found out about the brownout, God used that moment to challenge and encourage me to be grateful and content in Him even if our plan to skate would be cancelled or if we would skate without lights. Yesterday’s skating activity was a fun, fun way to cool down on a hot and humid summer day and I thank God for the experience. Here are some of the things I learned from our ice skating activity:

 

1. Be Confident

“Confidence is key.” We said this line over and over throughout our skating experience. It was tough to skate especially since our feet and legs were aching and we sometimes were fearful of losing our balance or falling. But, when we condition our minds to believe that we can do it by God’s grace, wonderful things can happen! It’s not about being confident because of our capabilities. It’s about stepping out in faith and finding confidence in God who is more than able to help us accomplish things. Also, there were times when my friends and I watched other professional skaters casually and beautifully display their skills and tricks on ice. Every single time, our jaws dropped. I couldn’t help but notice and be inspired by their confidence. They knew what they were doing and they weren’t afraid to fall.

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2. Put Your Hands Up

We skated for four hours yesterday and brought home a lot of bruises and body pains. But, it was all worth it. Hahaha. One of the tips that I learned a few years ago when skating with a lot of people is putting my hands up immediately after I fall down. The main reason for this is to avoid getting cut by the blades of the other skaters nearby. Interestingly, yesterday, I fell down at least three times and they were major falls: Twice on my butt and once facing forward. The first few seconds after the fall was quite challenging because I felt dizzy and my hands were sore and red because of the impact on the ice. But, as soon as I became aware of my fall, I laughed and raised my hands up quickly. Thankfully, I had friends beside me who also laughed with me and helped me get back up again. I realized that this tip is applicable not only to ice skating, but to life as well. It reminded me of the importance of learning to immediately surrender to God and ask help when we fall down, make mistakes, or feel like we’ve hit rock bottom. Or ice bottom, in this case. :)

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3. Grow Together

Before yesterday’s activity, we already had a few experiences with ice skating. The common skill that my friends and I had was being able to skate forward without the help of railings. After an hour of skating, we wanted to try out new skills and so, we challenged ourselves to unlock a new achievement together: To skate backwards. By God’s grace, after numerous attempts and falls, we were able to do it by the end of four hours on ice. It was encouraging to learn this new skill because we got to share do’s and don’t’s to each other while we were practicing. It was also fun to laugh with each other whenever we did funny facial expressions and body movements while we were skating backwards. Although we can’t do what the advanced skaters do, we were very much satisfied with seeing our progress on ice. Thankfully, with the electricity back on, we were able to document these things with good lighting. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to take videos of the times we fell. That would have been funny and nice. Haha.

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When it was time for us to go, we felt relieved and refreshed to finally remove the shoes off of our feet. We couldn’t stand and walk easily at first. But, just like what one of my friends said yesterday: “I love this paaaain.” I guess he was right. It really was a good experience to feel this kind of pain, to see weaknesses exposed, and to improve even more through the ice skating activity. As I write this post, I still feel certain parts of my body ache. One of my hands is sore, my neck is really stiff, and my lower back is just… sad. Hahahaha. Nonetheless, I thank the Lord for the cool experience. It definitely wouldn’t be my last ice skating adventure.

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How to Grow Carrots at Home

“Don’t give up in doubt what you planted in faith.”- Elisabeth Elliot

I read this statement while I was browsing through some photos online. It reminded me so much of my experience with planting and harvesting carrots at home. It was my first time to plant a type of vegetable that grows underneath the soil, which made harvesting more faith-stretching for me. As usual, I bought the carrot seeds from “Seeds of Hope” which can be found at any SM Supermarket. They also sell the seeds at Ace hardware or at the gardening stores at the entrance of SM Megamall (building A).

carrots
carrots

After months of waiting, by God’s grace, I finally had the privilege of harvesting my own carrots at home. Woohoo! Even though they didn’t reach their maximum size, they were still a sweet surprise (literally too). Hopefully, I can grow a second batch early next year. Personally, I think that growing carrots is easier than growing TOMATOES and CORN at home. I can’t wait to grow more soon! As always, gardening at home helps me appreciate the crops and our Creator more. It really is an amazing experience to see fruits and vegetables grow from tiny seeds. Tasting our homegrown crops still is quite mind-blowing. I really am grateful for the experience, which is why I want to encourage you to try it too! If you’re already growing carrots or other fruits/vegetables, let me know! Leave a comment below and share your gardening experience!

carrots
carrots

 

Tips on Growing Carrots at Home:

1.Use loose potting soil. It will help produce straight carrots since they won’t have to struggle growing through thick, hard, and rocky soil.

carrots
carrots

2. Plant the carrot seeds directly on the permanent container pot/bed. They don’t like growing in small plastic cups or nursery beds. They also don’t like being transplanted.

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3. Plant them in rows. The stems of the carrot plants are very fragile. So, planting several seeds beside each other will help in giving support to the batch of plants. This will also help you differentiate the carrot plants from weeds growing in the same pot/bed.

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4. Spray water lightly on the soil until water comes out of the pot’s holes or until the whole soil area is moist.

carrots
carrots

5. Use fertilizer every two to three weeks. I use Jobe’s organic fertilizer spikes for my vegetables.

carrots
carrots

6. When the seedlings grow 2-3 inches tall, start trimming the weaker plants in the rows. Unfortunately, we need to let go of some of the plants because we don’t want to overcrowd the soil with too many roots. Overcrowding will lead to producing smaller and intertwined carrots. (Although having intertwined carrots or carrots with legs can be cool, sometimes.)

carrots
carrots

7. You can help the stems and leaves grow upright by carefully and lightly tying them together. You can use plastic straws (strings).

carrots
carrots

8. When you see carrot tops peeking out of the soil, cover them with more loose potting soil. When the carrots are exposed to too much sunlight, their tops may turn to green.

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9. It usually takes three months before the carrots can be harvested. A good indication is when the stems are already 12 inches high.

carrots
carrots

10. Harvest the carrots when you’re ready to eat or cook them. Crops harvested lose their natural sweetness as the days go by.

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carrots
carrots
carrots

 

I hope you can join me in growing something green! ‘Til my next carrot experience. :)

Growing Sweet Corn at Home

The first thought that entered my mind when I had the idea of growing corn at home was: “Nicole, you have got to be crazy.” Hahaha. Even some of my friends told me that it was a funny and crazy thing to do. Maybe I WAS crazy because sweet corn is usually grown in fields, not in verandas at home. But, by faith, I still planted seeds of corn and attempted to grow them in the city.

sweet corn
sweet corn

For the first month and a half, everything was going “according to plan”. The seedlings were growing beautifully, the corn plants grew taller each week, and there were no bugs or pests around them. It was also during this time that my first two corn plants produced ears of corn. Compared to my other fruit-bearing plants, this type of plant grew really fast. In fact, after I got back home from an out-of-town, weekend trip, my family told me that the ears of corn grew strands of silk hair. I didn’t expect the plants to grow fast, but they did!

sweet corn silk hair
sweet corn silk hair
pollen from tassels
pollen from tassels

After reading numerous websites on growing corn, I found out that, ideally, corn stalks should be grown in a relatively large area since the more corn stalks there are in an area, the better the cross-pollination will be (which would result to producing kernels in the corn). I also learned that each silk hair is connected to a potential kernel and it must be properly pollinated in order for the kernel to grow. Since I live in the city and we only have a limited space to grow plants, my plants couldn’t cross-pollinate, so I needed to pollinate them by hand. I had faith that God can make them grow in our veranda, but honestly, there were times when I would worry about it. Nonetheless, I continued to water and pollinate them everyday.

hand-pollination on sweet corn plants
hand-pollination on sweet corn plants

Unfortunately, while I was pollinating the corn plants one day, I made a mistake by covering the tassels too long which resulted to the tassels being wet and useless. I wanted to cover the tassels with a plastic bag so that I could collect more pollen overnight instead of manually shaking them off. However, as a result of my carelessness, the bag got moist and the tassels were drenched. They couldn’t produce pollen anymore which meant that my ears of corn would most probably grow without kernels.

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You could just imagine how devastated I was. I spent the past two months watering the plants twice a day and I did my best to take care of them. But, I couldn’t undo my carelessness, I couldn’t force my plants to produce pollen again. I felt so discouraged and annoyed at myself. But, by God’s grace, I still had a third corn plant growing beside the other two corn plants. Thankfully, this third plant was a late bloomer. It only developed its tassels and ear when the other two corn plants’ ears were already big. As I looked at the third plant, I noticed that its tassels were generously producing pollen. I then thought of transferring the pollen from that plant to the other two plants. However, I also knew that if I use up the limited pollens of the third plant, there won’t be pollens left for that plant’s ears.

sweet corn
sweet corn

I had to make a decision fast because I only had a number of days because the ears of corn reach their full growth. After praying and thinking about it, I decided to sacrifice the life of the ear of corn in the third plant and I used its pollens to help grow kernels in the first two plants. After five days, the third plant’s tassels stopped producing pollen and the tedious hand-pollination process was finally over. All I had to do was to continue watering the plant and hope that the pollens in them would help grow kernels.

sweet corn
sweet corn

About a week later, I checked the plants to see if they were ready for harvest. To know if the corn is ready for harvest, you have to check these three things: 1.) The silk hair must be dry and brown. 2.) The ear must be plump. 3.) When you poke a kernel found at the top of the ear, it must squirt out a milky liquid, not a clear one. By God’s grace, both ears of corn passed the test! After two and a half months, they were ready for harvest!

sweet corn
sweet corn
sweet corn
sweet corn

I couldn’t believe it was finally happening. I felt hopeful and nervous at the same time because it was my first time to grow corn. With a grateful heart, I harvested two ears of corn last May 22 and thanked God for the awesome privilege of growing corn at home. I slowly peeled the layers of leaves and strands of silk hair away from the cobs of corn and I saw beautiful, yellow kernels. Man, that moment was priceless. Although one of the ears of corn had only 85% of its kernels and the other ear only had 95%, it was still such a delight to see them grow. Suddenly, impossible things didn’t seem so impossible after all.

sweet corn
sweet corn
sweet corn
sweet corn

While I was enjoying the moment, I saw the third corn plant in the veranda. I then remembered that because of my mistake, the third plant needed to give up the life of its ear in order for the ears of the first two plants to grow. I shared this to my mom that morning and she told me that it reminded her of Jesus’ sacrifice. It all made sense. When I made a mistake a few weeks ago by leaving the plastic bags on the tassels too long, I couldn’t understand why God allowed it to happen. It was so discouraging to make a costly mistake during the most crucial period of the corn plants’ growth. But, now I know that He had a purpose for it. He wanted me to remember the sacrifice that He did thousands of years ago when He sent His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross and to rise again just so we could have eternal life with Him in Heaven.

sweet corn
sweet corn
sweet corn
sweet corn

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” –John 3:16

I made a mistake while I was gardening and I definitely couldn’t reverse what I’ve done or save the plants on my own strength. But, God, in His perfect timing, provided a way for me to still pollinate the plants and enjoy its fruit. In the same way, God constantly reminds me that He already made a way for us through Jesus. Because of Him, I know that I have been redeemed from my past wrongdoings; I have been set free from the slavery of sin, and I have been given the privilege of drawing closer to God each day — until eternity.

sweet corn
sweet corn
sweet corn
sweet corn
sweet corn
sweet corn

Some say that it is crazy and impossible to grow corn in the city. Some say that it is hopeless and impossible for messed up lives and broken hearts to be restored and renewed. But, I am reminded that we can put our hope and trust in Jesus and what He says in His word: “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

Are there seemingly impossible situations in your life right now? I encourage you to lift them up to God, to do your part, and to relax as you witness Him work in ways that we can never imagine.

sweet corn
sweet corn
sweet corn
sweet corn

 “There is strength knowing I belong to the One who’s making all things possible. My God is strong and mighty. My God is faithful. My hope is in the Lord for He is able.” –Mark Schultz

sweet corn
sweet corn
sweet corn
sweet corn
sweet corn
sweet corn

 

Encourage yourself one treat at a time.

Boyce Avenue in Manila 2015: Meeting Them Again

LOVE FOR BOYCE AVENUE

Boyce Avenue will always have a special place in my heart. Ever since I heard their covers and songs online, I knew that I would be listening to their music for a very, very, very, very long time. Five years and a hundred of YouTube videos later, I still find myself enjoying the chill, acoustic vibe of the Manzano brothers. Indeed, it is amazing to see them consistently use their talents to make and share beautiful music to the world.

At Smart Araneta Coliseum with Fabian Manzano, Alejandro Manzano, and Daniel Manzano. Boyce Avenue!
At Smart Araneta Coliseum with Fabian Manzano, Alejandro Manzano, and Daniel Manzano. Boyce Avenue!

Last 2013, my younger brother and I had the privilege of going to their concert at Resorts World Manila and meeting them after the show. I shared more about the experience HERE . It was definitely an unforgettable moment because seeing and hearing them sing and play live in the Philippines rarely happens. I enjoyed their show so much that I told myself I would go to their next concert in Manila, regardless of the price ticket and the date. Because they just had their concert in Manila last 2013, I didn’t expect them to be back soon. But to my surprise, two months ago, Ovation Productions proudly announced that Boyce Avenue was returning to Manila on Valentine’s day this 2015! It was going to be their biggest concert ever!

Meet and Greet with Boyce Avenue last 2013 at Resorts World Manila
Meet and Greet with Boyce Avenue last 2013 at Resorts World Manila
Boyce Avenue's Poster: Concert in Manila 2015. Valentine's Day
Boyce Avenue’s Poster: Concert in Manila 2015. Valentine’s Day

WHAT?! I couldn’t believe it. As soon as I heard about it, I immediately checked websites for possible ticket giveaways and I set aside money for the ticket, just in case. I also tried to ask some of our family friends if they had discounted tickets or free tickets that they can give away. However, by the end of January 2015, I still didn’t have a ticket. I prayed about it and thought of finally buying a ticket for the best seat possible since they were running out of good seats. On the 27th of January, I finally bought a ticket for me. Yup! Just one ticket. I was going to attend the concert of Boyce Avenue alone… on Valentine’s day! Also, by faith, I prayed for an opportunity to meet the band again. They didn’t sell meet and greet passes, so meeting them would really be a miracle.

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After that night, the days quickly passed by and all I could think of during my spare time was how funny and exciting this new experience would be for me! I was so excited to see my favorite band again that I consistently dreamt about them days before the concert. But, at the same time, I was getting nervous because there was no assurance for me to meet them in person. On the eve of Valentine’s day, I prayed about meeting them again and I started daydreaming about giving them gifts when I meet them. Talk about dreaming big! Haha. I ended up sleeping that night and dreaming about their concert one last time. In my dream, I saw Alejandro Manzano walking towards me while he was singing at their concert. Just when we were about to take a photo in my dream, I woke up. Aaaah!!! You could just imagine the suspense I felt. It was crazy.

Alejandro Manzano. Photo c/o Ovation Productions' Mong Pintolo
Alejandro Manzano. Photo c/o Ovation Productions’ Mong Pintolo

 

VALENTINE’S DAY

Finally, it was already the 14th of February. While I was browsing through Facebook that morning, I noticed a lot of similar photos shared by my friends online. It was an acronym of VALENTINE inside the Bible verse: John 3:16. Somehow, while I was looking at it, God spoke to me and I heard Him say: “I know the best gift you could give to Boyce Avenue! The best gift is Me. IF I allow you to meet and greet the band later, I want you to share Me to them. I want you to tell them that I love them.”

Before the concert, I made letters for Boyce Avenue even if there was no assurance for a meet & greet after the show. By faith!
Before the concert, I made letters for Boyce Avenue even if there was no assurance for a meet & greet after the show. By faith!

When I heard that, I felt a bit uneasy yet peaceful at the same time. Sharing God’s love to the band on Valentine’s day was a great idea! But, at the same time, I was puzzled because I didn’t know if I would meet them and I didn’t know how I would share His love to them. Nonetheless, later that evening, when I arrived at the basement parking of Smart Araneta Coliseum, I remembered what God said and I wrote personalized letters to Alejandro, Fabian, and Daniel Manzano. I wrote the VALENTINE acronym and John 3:16 on the sheets of paper and kept them in my bag. It was finally happening. I felt my heart beat fast as I left the parking lot and walked ins­­­ide the coliseum by myself. I was excited to enjoy my date night with God at the Boyce Avenue concert.

View from my seat
View from my seat

Since I was just by myself, I spent time observing the people around me, the setup, the stage, the production crew, and I had the privilege of sharing to God what I was feeling at the moment. It was also during this time that I tried to ask one of our family friends again if there was still a way to meet the band after the show. However, after a few minutes, our family friend replied and said that the band was leaving immediately after the show and that there wouldn’t be a meet and greet. When I read her message, I honestly got heartbroken because I had been praying for this request since two months before the concert. The smile on my face instantly disappeared and I felt so discouraged. I sent a text message to my mom and shared to her that our friend confirmed that there wouldn’t be a meet and greet.

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But, despite that update, I told my mom that somehow, God was still giving me hope and telling me not to let go of that dream. So, I took that opportunity to talk to God and I asked him to strengthen my heart and help me find hope in Him. He then gave me the desire to be grateful for the fact that He provided for my ticket, that I was sitting near the stage, that I safely got to the venue, and that I was watching the concert of Boyce Avenue that night. Suddenly, I felt lighter and I shared to God that I knew that He was still God no matter what and I knew that He could let me meet the band in a heartbeat if He wants me to. So, by faith, I asked Him one more time to provide an opportunity for me to see the band after the show.

 

HEARTBROKEN TO HOPEFUL

Just ten minutes before the band was scheduled to go on stage, I saw one of Dad’s friends from church who was working with the production team. Then, I heard a whisper from God and He told me to go to the guy and ask him. I started walking towards Dad’s friend, introduced myself, and asked if meeting the band after the show was possible. He warmly listened to my request and said that he wasn’t sure, but he could try to do something. He instructed me to meet him at the side of the stage after the show, just in case.

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I thanked him and went back to my seat as I held on to the hope that God was giving to me. I didn’t know if it was possible, but God changed my anxious heart and He gave me peace which lasted for the rest of the night. Finally, the Manzano brothers went on stage, strummed their guitars, and flawlessly sang their beautiful songs! IT. WAS. AMAZING!!! Everyone brought out their cameras and phones and the whole crowd recorded the band’s every move as we happily listened to their music. I didn’t even notice that I was alone because we all just enjoyed the moments with the band. (I’ll be sharing more about the details of the concert in another post.) It was definitely the best concert I’ve been to. Of course, they’re my favorite band!

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Daniel Manzano. Photo c/o Ovation Productions' Mong Pintolo
Daniel Manzano. Photo c/o Ovation Productions’ Mong Pintolo
Fabian Manzano. Photo c/o Ovation Productions' Mong Pintolo
Fabian Manzano. Photo c/o Ovation Productions’ Mong Pintolo

After the concert, I rushed to the side of the stage where I was supposed to meet Dad’s friend. However, he wasn’t there. I waited for ten minutes, but I still didn’t see any sign of him. I decided to go to the other side of the stage and surprisingly, I saw a familiar face. I saw one of the bouncers that my sisters and I met while we watched the musical “Beauty and the Beast” which was also produced by Ovation Productions. I said hi to him and asked if he saw my dad’s friend. But, he said that he didn’t see him. Ten more minutes passed by and I was starting to lose hope because I knew that the band would be leaving the place immediately. Then, my bouncer friend and I saw the mother (who also knew Dad) of my dad’s friend and he suggested that I ask her instead.

With tita C! :)
With tita C! :)

 

DREAM COME TRUE… AGAIN.

I then walked towards her, introduced myself, and shared to her that I spoke with her son earlier that night. Just like her son, she warmly said hello and told me that she would try to check if she could help me and some of her friends (who were also near the area) to go inside the backstage. A few minutes later, she came out from the backstage and signaled us to go in with her. The next moments after that felt like a dream. We went inside a VIP lounge behind the stage and were instructed to wait for the band there. I was shaking the whole time because I couldn’t believe it was actually happening. We sat in a fancy bar area and were served with fresh, cold iced tea. It was crazy, amazing.

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I was sitting on one of the sofa chairs when I heard low murmurs. When I looked at the entrance of the VIP lounge, I saw the Manzano brothers walking towards us, along with their body guards. I thought I was going to faint, but by God’s grace, he kept me sane. Haha. We spent the next minutes casually talking to the band, taking photos of them and with them, getting their autographs, and just enjoying a relaxing time with the group. I kept thanking Tita C for the privilege and for graciously allowing me to spend a few minutes with the band after the show. Before leaving the lounge, I remembered the personalized letters I made for them before going to the concert. So, I approached them again and gave my simple Valentine’s gift to them. They were so nice. They got the letters, hugged me, and said that it was these little things from their fans that they really appreciate. I thanked them again and left the place with a joyful and grateful heart.

Shared God's love to Boyce Avenue on Valentine's Day through these personalized John 3:16 letters.
Shared God’s love to Boyce Avenue on Valentine’s Day through these personalized John 3:16 letters.
Boyce Avenue's Autograph
Boyce Avenue’s Autograph

By God’s grace, He allowed me to meet the band AGAIN and share His love to them after the show. Indeed, God is able to do more than what we can ever imagine or think of. He is able to do the impossible. He is able to inspire, break, change, and bless our hearts for the best. I learned so many lessons throughout my Valentine weekend this year. But, one of the highlights that my heart will forever remember is learning to put my faith in God no matter what situation I am in, to trust that He is able to bring me through it, and to obey Him when He tells me to honor Him even through the simplest ways. I may not always understand why or know how and if He will allow things to happen, but I am encouraged to trust His heart and believe that He has His best in store for me always.

Boyce Avenue at Smart Araneta Coliseum, Manila.
Boyce Avenue at Smart Araneta Coliseum, Manila.

Once again, I thank You, Lord, for showing your amazing, AMAZING GRACE to me through this Boyce Avenue experience. As I’ve mentioned before, You leave me speechless. I only asked for a chance to meet the band, but You gave me more. You even allowed me to share You to them! Thank You for Ovation Productions, for tita C and her gracious family. May You bless them even more this year. Thank You for Boyce Avenue’s love for music. May You continue to use their talents to inspire people around the world. What a Valentine’s treat from You, Jesus. From the bottom of my heart, I thank You. :)

Took a grumpy cat selfie with Alejandro Manzano of Boyce Avenue at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Took a grumpy cat selfie with Alejandro Manzano of Boyce Avenue at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

To my favorite band, by faith, I will meet you again soon! Until then, I will see you online. Keep making beautiful music! :)

Matthew 21:22 “And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”

BEST VALENTINE’S DAY EVER!!! :) <3

BOYCE AVENUE:

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/boyceavenue

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BoyceAvenue

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BoyceAvenue

Encourage yourself one treat at a time.