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!)

Through the Fire: 14 Years and Counting

Our family almost lost our lives when our house burned down fourteen years ago. I can still recall how the Lord graciously led all of us out of the house before the roof fell to the ground.

Sometimes, I still wonder what it would be like if we weren’t around anymore, after November 19, 2004. We wouldn’t have been able to: 1) develop the relationships that we have right now, 2) discover skills and desires that God has placed in our hearts, 3) invest in both material and eternal things, and 4) experience God’s faithfulness and goodness the way that we did in the past decade!

Although, I have to admit, there are times when I do long for the day when I finally get to meet God face-to-face and start spending eternity with Him in Heaven. However, only He knows when that would be and as long as He wakes me up each day, by God’s grace, I will choose to seek and serve Him — no matter how difficult the struggles in this life may be. God, being the sovereign God that He is, allows me and my family to continue living here on earth since the fire incident. Indeed, it is a humbling reality!

I’ll be sharing a part of Psalm 71 which reflects what is in my heart as I remember God’s faithfulness today. 

“As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more. My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds, of your saving acts all day long— though I know not how to relate them all.

I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign Lord; I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone.

Since my youth, God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come.

Your righteousness, God, reaches to the heavens, you who have done great things. Who is like you, God?

Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up.”

Thank You, Lord, for waking me up today… and for the 14 years (and counting) of being able to know You and experience You in deep and new ways here on earth. 

 

Thanks for Putting Your Phone Down, Dad!

At around 9:45 pm, I came home from a long, tiring, and interesting day. To be more specific, something happened between 7:30-9:30 pm tonight that was special to me. I’ll probably share it in a different post. But, those two hours had a huge impact on my heart and I couldn’t contain the joy and peace that I was feeling.

I entered the Master’s bedroom to greet my parents, but my mom was already asleep. My Dad, however, was still awake and was using his cellphone (I think he was playing a game). When I kissed dad, he asked me how I was and where I came from and I decided to take a deep breath as I said: “Dad, I just had a crazy and interesting night. I still can’t believe it happened.”

Sometimes, before, whenever we had the chance to talk in their room at night, he would continue to use his phone while I greeted him or while we exchanged stories. But tonight, he did something that I deeply appreciated. Dad put his phone down a few seconds after I started to share what happened to me tonight.

For the next fifteen minutes, I relayed to him the details of my night as my eyes watered. I got teary eyed not because of pain but because my heart was overwhelmed with joy and amazement at how God personally touched me in my fresh experience. As I shared, Dad eagerly listened and even affirmed what I was sharing. He continued to rejoice with me when I rejoiced and he praised God with me when I acknowledged His goodness and perfect timing. He even gave me a sincere advice to support what I just learned and shared to him.

After our talk, I walked out of the room and shouted “Thanks, Dad, for listening! Oh, and thanks for walking and feeding the dogs earlier too!”. Not only did he do the chore that I was assigned to do tonight, he also made sure to give his full attention to me, his daughter, while I shared my heart to him.

I am guilty when it comes to using my phone while I talk to other people. Sometimes, I even prefer to use my phone instead of starting conversations with friends or family members. But, tonight, I realized and saw how nice it was for my dad to be so interested in what I was sharing. He postponed what he was doing on his mobile phone, put it down on the bed, and engaged in conversation with me.

Tonight, I just want to appreciate my dad for this seemingly simple yet very impactful act of his. From a daughter’s point of view, I know that parents do have a great influence on their children. Their words, actions, thoughts, and even body language can either build them up or discourage them. This is also the same for children towards our parents.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” -Philippians‬ ‭2:3-4‬

Although I know that we are not perfect, I believe that by God’s grace, we can continue to grow in our relationships with each other. Even through the simplest ways, we can show sincere love and care for each other. By God’s grace, Dad continues to grow and improve as an intentional dad at home and I really praise the Lord for this.

Thanks again, Dad, for our quick magic moment tonight! You were the first one to know about my special experience! :)