To Be Like You

One of the things that I genuinely enjoy about baking is being able to personalize the goodies that I make. I just love how baking allows us to get creative with the quantity, design, colors, size, and taste of the treats. Moreover, being able to see the good, beauty, and “desired look” in the finished products makes it a delightful experience for me.

Recently, I had the opportunity and privilege of sharing some of the treats to my friends at Friday Night Light (FNL). At that time, because we were raising funds for the ministry by selling shirts, I thought of experimenting with sugar cookies and making personalized FNL sugar T-shirt cookies. :)

 

The process of making these treats involved the ff:

Make the cookie dough.

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Use cookie cutters to shape the cookies.

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Prepare the Royal Icing.

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Design the cookies using the Icing.

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Let the Cookies Dry and Serve/Pack

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At that time, I remembered looking at and using the FNL shirts that I had at home as my pattern and guide while making and designing the sugar cookies.  There were moments when I experienced difficulties in applying the icing, rolling out/cutting the soft cookie dough, and even letting the cookies dry. But, God reminded me to continue looking at my pattern and guide (FNL shirts) and persevere in making the FNL sugar T-shirt cookies.

He reminded me of the same principle in the Bible, where it says “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

This verse shows us the reality of experiencing discouragements, weaknesses, and problems in this world. But more importantly, it shows us the peace and victory that we have in Christ even in the midst of these things. What an encouragement! :)

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By the end of the night, I was able to make and pack more than 50 FNL shirt-like sugar cookies! Only by God’s grace. :)

It really was a lovely sight for me because the little shirt cookies looked like the real thing — the FNL shirts I had in my closet!

It was also encouraging  because I was reminded of how God, the One who made us, also desires for us to become more like His Son, Jesus. He takes pleasure in us not because of our “own” righteousness, achievements, status, or strengths, but because of His righteousness and grace in us through His Son, Jesus. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

♫ Oh to be like You
Give all I have just to know You
Jesus, there’s no one besides You
Forever the hope in my heart… ♫

[Hillsong]

And so I ask myself this question: “Is there anything in my life that does not look like Christ?”

Thank You, God, for giving us opportunities each day to grow more in our walk with You and become like Jesus. :)

 

Encourage yourself one treat at a time. :)

S’mores and Something More

For the past few months, I’ve been praying for God’s direction for me in ministry. Specifically, if it is His will for me to continue serving Him at CCF Makati’s Friday Night Light (FNL) and be a facilitator at the True Life Singles Retreat or to serve in another ministry. I was praying for this because I was struggling with managing my time and resources since I get off from work late and I don’t live near CCF Makati. For the longest time, I felt like God was so silent about this, but by His grace, He gave me an answer three weeks ago.

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Last August 3, I had my quiet time with the Lord at home. I poured out my heart to him again, humbled myself before him, and told him: “Lord, I want to hear your voice more than anything else right now. I’m listening, Lord. Please speak to me tonight. Please give me direction. Thank You…” After writing that, I stared at space for a few minutes and when I was about to write some more, I noticed this…

You

The word “You” was on the next page and it was the only word written there at that time. God was showing me that life really is all about Him. It’s all about Jesus. Ministry is about Him and not about my comfort, or my skills in serving Christ, or about the number of girls I handle, or where I’m active in ministry, or who I’m friends with in ministry, etc. It’s all about “You”, Jesus.

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Photo taken by Flonnah Valencia

I spent the rest of the night reading the first part of Genesis 12 and it was about the Call of Abram. He obeyed God when he was instructed to go the land that God will show him. And one of the things that struck me in that chapter was verse 7, where God said “To your offspring, I will give this land.” It made an impression on me because a few verses before that, I read that Sarai was barren. And now, God is telling Abram that he will give that land to his offspring.

It was encouraging because it reminded me of God’s sovereignty, faithfulness, and power even in the midst of my weaknesses and “impossible” & difficult situations. Abram built an altar after God said “I will give this land” and it was also nice because it showed that Abram acknowledged God’s presence at that time and in that place. I was encouraged to trust in God again.

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After having my quiet time, God prompted me to read through my old blog posts, to remind me of my moments with God for the past year. I then happened to read my blog post about S’more Cookies & last year’s FNL teambuilding (http://encouragingtreats.com/smore-cookies/) and while I was reading it, it seemed like I was a different person back then. I was so full of encouragement, light, peace, and joy.

S'more Cookies
Jeff serving the S’more Cookies (Photo by Jill Bantang)

I even wrote this: “Maybe God gave us the sticky situations/rollercoaster ride to remind the FNL team that in the future as we serve Him in ministry, we may also encounter similar sticky situations and even sudden changes in our plans. However, I’m learning that sticky situations actually encourage us to focus on God’s grace, faithfulness and love. They are opportunities for us to seek Him more especially as we make decisions. Also, they help develop our hearts and character as we trust in His sovereignty.”

God humbled me that night as I read through my old blog and He encouraged me to be like the Nicole who blogged about this last year. She didn’t worry about her struggles and concerns in ministry. She was focused on Jesus.

Proverbs 19:21 “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”

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At the end of the blog post, I noticed something that struck me. “Did you know that the original name for “S’more” was “Some More”? This is because when the people tasted S’mores before, they constantly asked for more! Similarly, in our teambuilding experience, I realized that although we didn’t ask for more, God decided to give us some more problems and sticky situations for His good purposes. I’m glad He did! :)”

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And that was it. God spoke to me. I honestly believe that God answered the prayer of my heart that night because when I read S’mores or “Some More” in my blog, I remembered this year’s True Life retreat which was entitled “Something More”. By faith and by His grace, I went to the retreat last weekend. :)

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Photo taken by RJ Magno

I praise and thank Jesus for the privilege of serving and knowing Him more in the True Life Singles Retreat. I’ve witnessed so many changed lives and hearts surrendered to Him and I know that it was only by His grace. It really was a humbling experience for me because I was reminded of God’s indescribable grace and love for me.

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I really cannot imagine my life without You, Jesus. You have been and you will always be everything to me. I just can’t explain how you’ve changed and renewed my heart, mind, and life. Thank You so much for dying on the cross for me so that I can spend eternity with You in Heaven. Thank You so much for being with me and for being my Risen Savior, Lord, and best friend.

Jesus, You are worth my every cent, every second, every breath, and every step. :)

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Photo taken from Flonnah Valencia’s camera
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My wonderful ladies at the True Life Retreat.
Photo taken from Flonnah Valencia’s camera

“Too much to make sense of it all
I know that Your love breaks my fall
The scandal of grace, You died in my place
So my soul will live

Oh to be like You
Give all I have just to know You
Jesus, there’s no one besides You
Forever the hope in my heart.

It’s all because of You, Jesus.”

[Scandal of Grace by Hillsong]

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Flonnah publicly declaring her desire and decision to follow Jesus. :)
Photo taken from Flonnah Valencia’s camera
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Photo taken from Flonnah Valencia’s camera

And if I may just add, the food committee served s’mores in the retreat. When I saw those treats, my heart melted and I smiled because I remembered how God encouraged me to step out in faith and serve Him in this ministry. Thank You, Lord! :)

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Photo taken from Flonnah Valencia’s camera
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Photo taken from Flonnah Valencia’s camera
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My new BarCARda. :)

TRUE LIFE SINGLES RETREAT VIDEO: http://vimeo.com/73079435

FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHT: https://www.facebook.com/ccffridaynightlight

Encourage yourself one treat at a time. :)

S’more Cookies and Sticky Situations

Last Thursday, I decided to bake cookies for the Friday Night Light (FNL young singles) team in Laguna. I wanted to give it a twist and because I felt like we were going on a road trip/camping trip, I made S’more Cookies.

S'more Cookies
S’more Cookies
S'more Cookies
Jeff serving the S’more Cookies (Photo by Jill Bantang)

 

I had the opportunity to talk to God while I was baking. “Thanks again, Lord, for this privilege. :) Weee. By Your grace, I will not over bake the cookies. Haha. But, Lord. Wait a minute. I just realized that since I’ll be going to Laguna this weekend, I won’t have time to bake something else for my blog post this Monday! :o I can’t blog about the chocolate chip cookies again. What should I do?” 

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S’more Cookie

 

At that time, God just encouraged me to keep on making the S’more Cookies and not worry about my next blog post. “Okay, Lord. Anyway, if it’s Your will for me to blog this Monday, I know you’ll make a way. Thank you. :)”

(Fast forward to the FNL teambuilding)

Three words to describe it… WHAT A TRIP! Hahaha. But, really, I’d like to emphasize these three words more: BY GOD’S GRACE! :)

Here’s a little recap of the adventure that we had:

Situation #1: The coaster ran out of gas. Our trip got delayed.

 

Situation #2: The coaster didn’t have aircon. It felt like we were in a Sauna.

Situation #3: During our stopover, we found out that the coaster had two flat tires. Minor repairs were done.

Situation #4: On the road, there was a problem with the gears of the coaster. We were moving slowly. We decided to have another stopover.

Situation #5: By the time we reached the border of Rizal, Laguna, we experienced another problem involving the transmission of the coaster. In God’s perfect timing, we saw a nearby parking lot that had a P5.00 parking fee. Thus, we decided to park the coaster for the mean time.

Situation #6: After a few minutes of making calls, praying, and thinking about our situation, we decided to rent a jeep so we could go to our destination: Tree Farm, Laguna. After a 30/40 minute jeep ride, we finally got there, by God’s grace.

HAHAHA! Talk about a crazy adventure!

There was a moment in the jeepney ride where I was looking out the window, enjoying the breeze, and thanking God for His grace and travelling mercies for the team. I prayed: “WOW. Lord. What a trip! We’ve been experiencing hassles and problems on the way to Laguna, but by Your grace, the team has been grateful and joyful still! The team even prayed, helped and encouraged each other (including those who were already in the venue)!”

 

I thought to myself: “Those were definitely unexpected, crazy, sticky situations. But it’s pretty cool because God gave the team opportunities to bond together; to encourage and help each other; to come together in prayer; and to trust in Him.”

And in that moment, God spoke to my heart: “Exactly, Nic. Sticky situations. :) Sticky like the melted marshmallows in your S’more Cookies, right?”

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S’more Cookie

 

“WHOA. Oo nga noh. Wow, Lord! Cool analogy. What an encouragement!” I said. It was amazing because two days before the teambuilding, I didn’t really know why God was encouraging me to make S’more Cookies. And there He was speaking to me and encouraging me in the jeep.

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s’more cookie

So, what’s with the S’more Cookie analogy? Before I share it to you, I’d like to show you how to make S’more Cookies first:

  1. Bake the cookies. (You can go to this link to see the recipe: http://encouragingtreats.com/chocolate-chip-cookies/)
  2. Place cookies upside down on a plate with a big marshmallow on each cookie. Heat them in the microwave for 15 seconds or until the marshmallow explodes (HAHA. Just kidding. Of course, until it expands or puffs).
  3. Immediately place another cookie on top of each heated cookie with marshmallow and enjoy it’s gooeyness.

I know that the marshmallow had to go through the heat and hassle, but, it was really quite a view for me to see it puff and expand. God showed me that the marshmallow needed to be heated and expanded in order for the two cookies to stick together and be closer.

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marshmallow

In the same way, I realized that sometimes, God allows us to go through the heat, hassles, and sticky situations in life, so that we could “puff/expand” and grow to be used by Him even more.

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s’more cookie

It was also cool to see the two cookies and a marshmallow become one S’more cookie! Similarly, God used the FNL team’s sticky situations to allow the members to closely bond together and be united. But, more importantly, I learned that God also uses sticky situations so that we could seek Him and depend on Him even more.

I was so blessed by the team because in spite of the problems we encountered, the team still chose to praise and trust God. I saw the men step up and initiate in trying to solve the coaster problems. Also, the people who were already in the venue really exerted a lot of effort in preparing the place, praying, and offering assistance.

Being able to witness all of these things touched my heart deeply. I know that everything that happened during the trip was only by God’s grace.

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s’more cookie

When I tasted the S’more Cookies at home before the teambuilding, I remember saying “mmm. It’s so gooey. But, this is good. Really good. Thank You, Lord! Only by Your grace.” Likewise, by His grace, I can say that the sticky situations we experienced were good. Really good. And I do want to thank God for allowing us to go through it as a team. :) It reminded me of Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things, God works together for the good of those who love Him and those who are called according to His purpose.”

Maybe God gave us the sticky situations/rollercoaster ride to remind the FNL team that in the future as we serve Him in ministry, we may also encounter similar sticky situations and even sudden changes in our plans. However, I’m learning that sticky situations actually encourage us to focus on God’s grace, faithfulness and love. They are opportunities for us to seek Him more especially as we make decisions. Also, they help develop our hearts and character as we trust in His sovereignty.

This may be a memorable lesson for the FNL team, but I’d like to thank God for it because it is an encouragement for all of us too! Some of us may be experiencing sticky situations (difficulties in managing situations) now, but, at the end of the day, we are reminded that God is God. God is good. God is still in control of everything. And this is such a comfort because we experience indescribable peace and joy when we trust in God. (On our way back to Manila, we again experienced problems with the coaster but I saw the team still rejoice and thank God.)

Proverbs 19:21

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”

During our free time in the teambuilding, I was able to read this passage in my quiet time:

“Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.” –Psalm 63:3-4

After reading it, I felt like crying because God was encouraging me to keep on seeking His love and to always have a grateful heart. Throughout the whole trip, I didn’t hear anyone complain and this blessed me. I also witnessed hearts that were willing to know God and serve Him more.

Indeed,

“All of my life, in every season, YOU ARE STILL GOD. I have a reason to sing. I have a reason to worship.” –Hillsong’s  “Desert Song”

 

 

Did you know that the original name for “S’more” was “Some More”? This is because when the people tasted S’mores before, they constantly asked for more! Similarly, in our teambuilding experience, I realized that although we didn’t ask for more, God decided to give us some more problems and sticky situations for His good purposes. I’m glad He did! :)

Thank God for gooeyness. Thank God for sticky situations in life.

Encourage yourself one treat at a time.