Is There Hope for My Broken Family?

One of the most difficult questions I’ve had to answer after our family’s 3-week vacation to the States was “How was your trip?”. Every single time a friend or a colleague asked me this, I took a deep breath, smiled, and said: “It was good! Really fun!” But, behind those answers was a heart breaking inside of me. Yes, by God’s grace, there were good and amazing highlights which I hope to share sometime soon. However, I couldn’t just let go of the fact that our family went through an emotional roller coaster ride that continued even a month after we got back to the Philippines. We went home to the same house each day and had occasional chats, but there was definitely an elephant in the room.

 

PRIDE IN THE FAMILY

The trip was supposed to be a fun time with the family because of three main reasons: 1) Our eldest sister’s wedding and meeting the extended family in Hawaii, 2) Our family reunion with my father’s side, and 3) Our whole family’s first time to travel the States together. But while we were still in the States, our different types of personalities clashed almost every day. From the smallest concerns to the biggest problems we encountered, the pride in us took over our hearts and minds.

Unfortunately, this caused us to stumble and sin not only in our thoughts, but also in the harsh and unloving words that we carelessly threw against each other. When someone made a mistake, some of us were quick to judge and comment about it. When someone made suggestions, some of us chose to disregard and belittle them. When someone opened up that he/she was hurt, the other side became defensive. When we experienced delays, hassles, or detours during the trip, blaming and getting annoyed at each other became a normal response. Moreover, smiling for the camera in between these moments was the cherry on top! It was very tiring and frustrating.

 

INDIFFERENCE IN THE FAMILY

As each day passed by, I kept telling God about my disappointment and heartbreak because of our family’s situation. There were moments when I would cry or cringe especially when I would see myself and my other family members being joyful with others, yet having not much emotion or interest back at home. It broke my heart to see how it was normal for us to worship God and serve others when we ourselves weren’t honoring God in our relationships in the family. I also noticed that some of us preferred staying out late instead of going home early to spend more time with the family. In addition, some of us kept ourselves busy with work or other interests, since it was more convenient compared to dealing with the problem. In a nutshell, our family was already giving up on each other.

“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.Psalm 43:5

 

HUMILITY IN THE FAMILY

Last Saturday, during a road trip with my older sister to a coffee farm, I had the opportunity to open up to her and share what I was feeling and thinking of, in relation to the elephant in the room. I said things like: “I honestly don’t know my parents and siblings anymore. We don’t make time for each other which causes us to be quick in judging and not understanding each other.” and “I’ve been ranting about this to God almost every day. I feel like He’s telling me to stop ranting and to start doing something about it!”

Our exchanges of experiences led us to agreeing that we needed to resolve issues and have a family meeting. We just couldn’t imagine seeing this problem snowball into something bigger in the years to come. I sent out a chat invite to our family’s group chat and surprisingly, they all (parents, older sister, and younger brother) confirmed their attendance for the next day. Ironically, that same road trip, I let my pride take control of me and it caused a tension between me and my sister (which I shared in my previous POST). But, God used that experience for me to understand the value and blessing of humility and by His grace, this inspired me to be intentional in praying for and facilitating our family meeting that weekend.

It was one of the awkward moments I’ve had with the family. Seeing them walk in the coffee shop one by one and knowing that we all had unresolved issues in our hearts. But somehow, God was encouraging me to trust that He is more than able to restore our relationships in His perfect timing. After Mom opened in prayer, I started to lead the discussion by sharing that the purpose of our talk that night was for us to be aware of the situation we had and to trust that God will help us restore what was broken.

I then asked everyone (including myself) two questions that night. The first question was: “What changes do you desire to see in our family?”. This was our chance to let each other know about the improvements that we wanted to see in the members of the family. After around 10 minutes, I asked them the second question: “What changes do you desire to see in YOURSELF, in relation to the family?”. I remember seeing some of their eyes widen and hearing some say “ohh my!”. I guess it was a question that they did not expect. After everyone finished typing their answers on their mobile phones, I said: “Okay! It’s now time to share our answers to the group. Let’s begin with question… #2.”

By God’s grace, He inspired me to set the tone of humility in our discussion by starting with the second question. Knowing our family (based on the previous open forums we’ve had in the past years), whenever we first shared about family issues and problems because of each other, our conversations did end up having action steps, but they also turned a bit sour afterwards. Sometimes, there would still be conversations after the open forum where some of us would say, “I still felt that I wasn’t understood when I opened up…” and all those similar responses.

So, for our recent family meeting, it was refreshing and very humbling for each of us to start the discussion by admitting our own weaknesses, shortcomings, and desires to improve ourselves within the context of family. By the time we moved on to question #1, the issues and concerns shared were willingly welcomed by each member. After a loooong time, I sincerely saw how each member was intentional in hearing out and understanding where the hurting member was coming from. There were no defensive or harsh comments made and when we were almost leaning towards a tension, the other members helped in balancing the conversation. Not only did we get to know each other and our hurts more, we also had the opportunity to forgive, to ask for forgiveness, and to believe in the best towards each other. Hugs were given, tears were shed, funny comments were occasionally said, tips to love each other were shared, and walls among us were slowly being destroyed.

“God, I’m done running from the reason that You sent Your Son. So I’m gonna choose to love.
Maybe I’ll hurt, maybe I’ll bruise, maybe I’ll cry, maybe I’ll lose.
Still I will choose to love.” –Francesca Battistelli

 

HOPE FOR THE FAMILY

We ended the night by encouraging each other to grow in our relationship with Jesus and in our love for each other, by the power of the Holy Spirit. My heart was overjoyed, not because all of our family concerns were solved, but because we found hope in Jesus. In spite of our weaknesses, He is more than able to transform our hearts and do miracles in our families, no matter how simple or hopeless the situations and problems may be. All it takes is a step of faith when He calls us to act on it and trust in Him.

You too might wonder: “Is there hope for my broken family?”

I think you already know the answer to it. Will you believe it? :)

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” –Romans 15:13

*Note: I asked my family’s permission before blogging about this.*

I Didn’t Want to Say Sorry

I didn’t want to say sorry. So, I chose to gargle the pride in my mouth and let it linger overnight! It’s interesting how easy it is for us to just sweep things under the rug and ignore the nudge of the Holy Spirit, especially when our ego is hurt or when we focus on ourselves and selfish desires.

Yesterday, during a roadtrip bonding with my older sister, we got into a conversation about pursuing certain studies that we were passionate about. As I was sharing about mine, I unintentionally put my passion on a pedestal and made it seem like it had a more meaningful purpose than hers. Our conversation and bonding didn’t turn sour, by God’s grace, but my heart knew that I wasn’t careful with my words and motives.

What was I thinking? Looking back, I realized how selfish and proud I was to believe in the lie that I needed to prove that I was better. Even though it was unintentional for me to carelessly react that way, I was reminded of Matthew 12:34 where it says,

“You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

Obviously, my heart was already overflowing with pride and insecurities even before our roadtrip. So, when I had that conversation with my sister, the words just naturally flowed from my heart to my mouth. And unfortunately, it wasn’t a moment that I was proud of.

We still had the rest of the afternoon and evening to bond and although I knew there was pride in my heart, I did not say sorry immediately. I just disregarded it and continued to have a good time with her. Later that night, I remembered my pride and thought, “Why should I even bring it up? I don’t need to apologize for the way I acted earlier today. She seems fine.” But, I praise God for the Holy Spirit that cares and convicts.

This morning, God opened the eyes of my heart. It happened while I was throwing trash in a brown paper bag of Frankie’s inside our kitchen. The frankie’s staff apparently wrote these words on the paper bag before they gave it to us last night: “You are enough just as you are.” This hit me hard. Immediately, I knew that God was renewing my mind and reminding me of my true security in Jesus. I didn’t need to prove myself or seek affirmation and praise from people. I didn’t need to nurture the pride in my heart because clearly, everything that I am is only by the grace of God.

So, with His help, I reached out to my sister this afternoon and apologized for my behavior and pride yesterday. She was gracious in forgiving me and making me feel loved by her! 

This is just a simple struggle that God needed to deal in my heart and I do praise Him for His endless pursuit and pruning in my life. By the power of the Holy Spirit in us, we CAN choose to humble ourselves and forgive others no matter how big or small the struggle is. I pray that I will continue to grow in this aspect as I expose the dirt and hurt and let God work in and through me. For the love of the relationships that He has blessed me with and for His glory, ultimately.

P.S. Thanks, temic, for our roadtrip bonding yesterday! 

12 Highlights of My 2018

I almost forgot that I had an annual tradition of listing down twelve highlights of my year, which started last 2016. Hahaha. As long as I am alive, I plan to continue this simple way of remembering God’s faithfulness and grace every year. If I could summarize my 2018 in a few Bible verses, it would be Jeremiah 17:7-8, which says:

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”

I chose these verses not because I was similar to the tree in the passage (believe me, I struggled with worries and insecurities big time last year!), but because of its humbling reminder that God IS all I need. He is THE ONE whom I should trust in both the highlights and hurdles of my life.

Here are the 12 Highlights of my 2018:

 

1. MEETING BOYCE AVENUE… AGAIN!

Boyce Avenue is my favorite acoustic band. By God’s grace, He has been allowing me to experience faith-stretching moments during their concerts in Manila since 2013. Last June 2018, I attended another concert and met the band for the fourth time! Yay! More details HERE.

2. NOVA

2017 was a challenging time for me because I saw my savings decrease more and more due to major car repairs. After much prayer and waiting, God provided a better, secondhand vehicle for me last 2018. Thanks to my dad and older brother, it was sold at a very reasonable price and with gracious terms of payment. I also had the privilege of dedicating my Innova (“Nova”) and myself (as the driver) to the Lord last year. It served as a reminder for me to use this blessing for His glory.

 

3. PROMOTION & LDP GRADUATION

By God’s grace, I graduated from our company’s Leadership Development Program and Toastmaster’s club last year. Also, He gave me the privilege of being promoted before the year ended — something that I did not expect!

 

4. MY 10,000TH DAY ON EARTH

A close friend of mine and I had a conversation last August 2017 and we ended up talking about reaching milestones, including the number of days we’ve been alive. When we computed mine, we realized that my 10,000th day on earth would be on the 3rd day of May 2018. I celebrated it with a cup of my favorite Frappuccino and a weekend getaway with the Lord!

 

5. ISLAND HOPPING & ROADTRIPS

Two travels last year that delighted my heart: 1) ISLAND HOPPING: Bacolod-Iloilo-Gigantes-Guimaras and 2) ROADTRIP: Pampanga-Dagupan-Bolinao-Bulacan. I went with my awesome former and current colleagues, respectively. It sparked my love for culture, nature, food, photography, and our Creator!

 

6. NEW DISCIPLESHIP GROUP & MENTORS

I ended my 2017 with a broken heart because my small group (discipleship group) of 15 years at church dissolved. Most of my dgroupmates already got married and my discipler moved to Davao for work. So, we only get to keep in touch online. However, in God’s perfect timing, He introduced me to a warm and fun new small group who loves Jesus! I praise God for my mentors, Tim & Kina, and for the blessing of being accountable to the rest of the group, as we encourage each other to grow in love and obedience to God and His word.

 

7. GARDENING MILESTONES

By God’s grace, He allowed me to grow the best bunch of cherry tomatoes I’ve grown since I started gardening a decade ago. He also helped me experience the struggles and joys of growing chili (siling labuyo), which I brought home from my Bacolod trip. This plant produced at least 800 pcs. of sili (and counting), which I shared to family and friends. Growing this plant was very timely too because of the unexpected price increase of sili last year (Php 1000/kilo). I also grew more sili seedlings and gave them to some friends. Last but not the least, I enjoyed growing stalks of pechay in our veranda.

 

8. MUSIC MILESTONES

When the Lord inspired my heart, He gave me the privilege of composing two full songs and a few more songs with pending stanzas. He also allowed me to busk (thanks to Jello!) and play/sing one of my original songs in public for the very first time in BGC. Lastly, God gave me the honor of singing at a bridal march of a colleague and a special number in a wedding of my close accountability partner. Both ladies are named Tin. Haha!

 

9. BIBLE STUDY GROUP IN THE OFFICE

By God’s grace, I took a leap of faith and started a Bible study small group in the office where I shared Jesus and His word to my colleagues. We met every Thursday night since April 2018 and it has been such a joy for me to get to know each of them more and to learn with them as we prayed and studied God’s word. More details HERE..

 

10. DIGGING DEEP AT THE PRAYER MOUNTAIN

My not-so-secret getaway is definitely a highlight for my 2018. If it wasn’t for this venue where I could be alone with God and nature, I probably would not have had the opportunities to quiet myself, find rest in Him, pray for my concerns, listen to Him without being distracted, and see the areas in my life that I needed to surrender completely. I went to the prayer mountain at least 10 times last year and slept for a night or two each time. More details HERE..

 

11. FAMILY MILESTONES

It was a colorful year for our family and I can only thank the Lord for His faithfulness and grace in each milestone that we had. 1) My older brother’s marriage, 2) My eldest sister’s engagement, 3) Our whole family’s US Visas getting approved, 4) My first niece / our parent’s first grandchild, 5) Our first time to wear costumes as a family on my 28th, and 6) My older sister’s 30th!

 

12. A YEAR WITHOUT SOCIAL MEDIA

It was only by the grace of God that I, a former addict of social media, survived the year without it! I learned so much through this humbling experience and I would highly recommend it to anyone who’s struggling as well. More details HERE..

 

By God’s grace, I have survived another year and I look forward to seeing Him move beautifully and mightily again this 2019. :)

Digging Deep on My 28th Birthday

Last Sunday, I celebrated my 28th year on Earth. Twenty-eight years. I still can’t believe it. Growing up, I used to imagine huge milestones happening in my life past 25 years old. But here I am, pretty much the same younger me, with more responsibilities, new found friends, and broken and grace-filled moments to reminisce on. A colleague asked me how I wanted to celebrate my birthday this year and two things immediately popped in my mind: Time and Words. These are the top two love languages that I treasure the most and I desired to feel God’s love through them on my birthday.

I have this natural desire to help others feel special on their birthdays or on any occasion. I still don’t know why the Lord allowed me to have this trait and yearning in me, but every time it happens, I get fired up! My mind begins to spark with creative ideas. I end up coordinating with people and going the extra mile (sometimes, even literally) to get materials or even cakes and gifts. And on some occasions, by God’s grace, I effortlessly am able to produce songs or poems for family or friends. Just two nights ago, when one of my close friends celebrated her birthday, instead of sending her the usual greeting, I ended up composing a short, three-stanza poem for her which made her cry. Hahaha!

I really don’t know. Sometimes, I do feel that it comes off as being extra, which unintentionally puts pressure on others around me. But another part of me wonders why I become conscious about it, when it honestly just feels like something I was made to do. Whatever this is, I know that it is only by the grace of God that I am able to do this and if it does allow others to feel the love of God, then maybe I shouldn’t overthink. But, if it doesn’t, then, I pray that the Lord would give me wisdom.

The downside, however, of doing and being what I just shared is that, at times, I sincerely wish I would someday get to experience it too. Not on the giver’s side, but on the receiving end. Sometimes, I hope others would also go the extra mile, buy me flowers or a cake, gather family or friends and throw a surprise birthday for me, or intentionally spend time and talk with me over my favorite Frappuccino, without feeling any pressure to do so. It’s not something that I often think about, but it does cross my mind every time I celebrate my birthday. This year, it was a humbling moment for me to realize that because I decided to stay offline (away from Facebook and other social media apps), more people WILL NOT remember my birthday. As I mentioned in the first paragraph, I do cherish moments when people would spend time with me or say words of encouragement to me. So, I thought that less people remembering it meant having less chances of experiencing these two love languages.

As expected, on my birthday, only a few family and friends greeted me. I did feel mini heartbreaks when I realized that some close friends forgot about it. But, at the same time, God graciously humbled my heart and renewed my thoughts and emotions throughout that day. It started when I read Ephesians 6:10-20 in the morning and the Lord reminded me of the importance of putting on the full armor of God. What struck me in the passage was verse 17 which says: “Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” It was crystal clear that God was showing me where I should place my security – not in the words of men; but in His words, promises, and truths which are found in the Bible. I also felt the love of the Lord when He reminded me of my worth and salvation in Him.

By God’s grace, starting the day with His word helped me kick off the lies and discouragements that tried to attack me that day. God even allowed me to enjoy spending the first few hours of my morning at one of my favorite places – Farmer’s Market, where I bought ingredients for our family’s dinner later that day. He also gave me the strength to go to church after, despite having a messed up body clock and sore muscles that week. Moreover, even though some of my family members were out of town that weekend, they all made it to my birthday dinner at home!

 

As I was driving from the grocery store to our house before my birthday dinner, I had a moment with the Lord, which went something like this:

“Lord, in a little while, I’ll be celebrating my gardening-themed birthday dinner at home. I don’t know if all my family members could make it, but it would be nice to spend time with them tonight. I humble myself before you and acknowledge that I have been selfish in my thoughts. I wanted others to remember my birthday. I wanted others to greet me with words of affirmation. I wanted everyone and anything else but You, Jesus. Still, You never gave up on me. It’s pretty cool that my birthday theme tonight will be about gardening, remembering some of the vegetables I grew, and digging deep, because that’s what you allowed me to experience all throughout the year! Both in the garden and in my heart!

Because I was offline, you helped me have more time to dig deep in your word while I was at home, in a coffee shop, or in the mountain. You helped me dig deep in my relationships with family members, friends, and colleagues. So, Lord, even though I may not receive the time and words that I originally longed for from others around me, I am reminded that YOU ARE ENOUGH. In fact, it says in Isaiah 40:8 and Matthew 24:35 that YOUR words will never fade away. So, why should I long for others? Lord, I hold on to Your words. Lord, I hold on to You today.”

I ended my birthday singing praises to the Lord, as He filled my heart with joy and thanksgiving. It has been twenty-eight years of brokenness and grace. As long as I am still breathing here on Earth, I pray that the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart will be pleasing to the Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)

Here are some more photos from my birthday celebration at home. I asked my family to dress up as the vegetables I planted and organic fertilizer I used through the years. I have to say, they did a pretty amazing job! Hahaha. Thanks, family, for being intentional in preparing for and celebrating my birthday with me. Introducing: The Corn family, Hot Chili, Gardener, Eggplant, Broccoli, Carrot, and Chicken poop fertilizer.

Oh, and did you notice my healthy Carrot “cake”? :D

(Special thanks to my sister, Camille, for her calligraphy skills and for helping me set-up; Gabo & Monica, for the free Milk tea & for helping me prepare the fruit kebabs; my parents, for sponsoring our main course; and our help Pajean, for taking our photo!)