Of Grace and Phone Giveaways

I find it ironic that I took up Entrepreneurship back in college because generally speaking, I was and still am not a risk-taker. I’m the type of person who always orders the same Java Chip Frappuccino at Starbucks since I first tasted it eight years ago. I don’t go out on the streets and eagerly persuade people to buy products from me nor do I naturally confront people whenever I have concerns. I guess it has something to do with my personality as an introvert. So, when random, crazy, and risky ideas pop in my mind, it’s very hard for me to ignore them.

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A few nights ago, while I was driving home, I felt a strong nudge on my heart to give away the phone that I no longer use because I recently upgraded to a new one. Selling the old phone wasn’t an option for me when I thought about it that night, even if it would have been very practical and helpful. Somehow, it was crystal clear that God wanted me to give it to someone who needs a phone soon.

I couldn’t stop thinking about it even after I arrived at home. So, I prayed about it and I was led to post a status online that same night about the phone giveaway. I gave my Facebook friends two nights to leave a comment if they needed a phone or if they knew someone who did. I also mentioned that I would be randomly picking a name to announce the winner. Honestly, I expected a few comments that had “Me!” or “Yes! I need one!” on my status. But, after two days, most of the 28 friends who left comments shared heartfelt stories about their desire to bless their family members, friends, and even strangers. Somehow, I got to know their hearts even more through what they shared online. It was encouraging.

Capture

After the reading comments, I wanted to give each one of them a secondhand phone. But, for obvious reasons, I couldn’t. And so, I lifted them up in prayer instead because I knew that God was and is more than able to provide for their needs. The night before I announced the winner, I received a lot of comments from different people on how I should pick the winner for that phone. Some gave their votes for specific people who left comments, while others expressed their disappointment towards those who left “less meaningful” comments. However, God reminded me of the idea that He placed in my mind that night while I was driving home. He specifically impressed on my heart to RANDOMLY pick a winner for that phone. So, even if I wanted to give the phone to a certain person, I decided to draw lots the day after.

 

When the time came for me to announce the winner, I recorded a live video on Facebook to encourage the viewers and to show them the process of selecting the new owner of my pre-loved phone. Doing a live video is a nightmare for an introvert. Okay, maybe the other introverts wouldn’t mind it. But, it wasn’t natural for me. Hahaha. However, it was one of the most humbling experiences that I had this year because it was an opportunity for me to share God and His grace and provision to random viewers online. Sometimes, I’m learning that you just have to step out of your comfort zone, step out in faith, and believe that God is able to use ordinary people like you and me to be a blessing and to share Jesus to those around us.

Congratulations, Ode! You won the phone. :) Woohoo!

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The day after I chose the winner, I still kept thinking about those that left comments on my status. In particular, I had one friend (RJ) in mind who left a comment that deeply touched my heart. Because of this, even though I didn’t plan on giving away another secondhand phone that I had, God encouraged me to do so this week. I remembered that I still had a Nokia C7 (in good condition) inside my drawer. That phone has been inside my drawer for over a year now and immediately, I thought that it would be better if someone else will use it from now on. I sent a personal message to RJ on Facebook and shared to him about what God encouraged me to do.

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Today, I met up with the two friends that were chosen for the phone. Before I gave them the phones, we talked about God’s grace and how He is able to meet our needs. It was such a refreshing time to catch up with them and be encouraged by this experience. My friend, Ode, shared that this experience is helping her draw closer to the Lord. While, RJ shared that his friend (who was a student missionary) has been praying for a phone recently, so this secondhand phone would really help him a lot! He also shared that recently, he has been encouraging his friend to fully depend on the Lord’s provision. So, this experience was very timely.

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After we parted ways, my heart felt like it was going to burst because of the overflowing joy and peace in me. By God’s grace, He allowed me to have the privilege of sharing His blessings and being an encouragement to my friends this week. But, more than that, God reminded me of His unfailing love and grace for you and me. These are just material things that would soon fade away. But, many years ago, God showed us His grace by sending His son, Jesus, to die on the cross and to rise again just so we could spend eternity with Him in Heaven. We didn’t need to leave comments on God’s Facebook status. We didn’t have to explain our past, present struggles, and stories to Him. We didn’t even have to pay for the penalty of our wrongdoings. Even before we were born, He already chose to love, forgive, and give us  (sinners) His grace through Jesus! We just need to humble ourselves before Him, acknowledge our sinful ways, and receive Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” –Ephesians 2:8-9

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In the live video that I recorded on Facebook, I mentioned that God knows our hearts more than we do. It’s true. I may not know you personally or what your heart is going through right now. But, I want to encourage you as well to take some time today to get to know your Maker, our Father who loves us deeply. Did you know that you are dearly loved by Him? I hope you do.

Have a grace-filled week ahead! Keep on sharing His grace to others!

THURSDAY TUNE #31: To Love You Back by Jamie Grace

I was having a conversation with one of my officemates a few hours ago when he said something that caught my attention. He said with a smile and a deep sigh: “You know what, Nicole? Recently, I feel that God has been pursuing me. It’s amazing because even though I’ve been struggling week after week, He still continues to pursue me.”

When my officemate shared this to me, it reminded me of how humbling it is to be pursued and desired by God. He made the heavens and the earth. He made every part of our bodies. He can even make miracles happen in a heartbeat if He wants to. And yet, this same God is our God who loves us; who knows exactly what is in our hearts; and who desires to have a personal relationship with us.

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“If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.

 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.  How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.

(Psalm 139:8-10, 14-18)

As I read through the Bible verses mentioned above, I find myself thanking the Lord for His relentless love for me. Yes, He has been pursuing you and me. But, have we been pursuing God? Have we been delighting in who He is and in His Word?

I’d like to share a song by Jamie Grace which has been very instrumental in encouraging me to draw near to God and pursue Him more than anything. I hope that this will bless your hearts as well as you seek the Lord this week.

 

When I Sat on Chocolate Cake

I rarely eat sweets. But, when people offer chocolate cake, brownies, or crinkles, I usually give in. Most of the time, I buy or make these chocolate desserts whenever I crave sugar. I guess eating them is just a delightful thing to do! On the other hand, sitting on chocolate (or chocolate cake, in my case) is a different story. Haha! Let me share with you the highlight of my day.

Chocolate Cake and Outfit of the Day
Chocolate Cake and Outfit of the Day

Before going to work today, I spent time with God by writing my thoughts and prayers on my journal. In my heart, somehow, I knew that I was struggling with pride because I was dwelling on thoughts about “my” strengths or “my” good points. It was crazy. I wanted to share this struggle to God, but instead of acknowledging my pride and asking for His forgiveness, I just wrote “I humble myself before you, Lord, etc” on my notebook. After writing, I felt like I just sugar coated the words that came out of my heart. When I think about it now, it is so weird that I didn’t write what was really inside my heart. Was I worried about getting caught by others who might read my journal? Was I trying to hide my pride? Why was I so afraid to accept and write the truth when I was having a conversation with the One who created me; who knows my struggles even before I confess?

Fast forward to 6pm, while I was leaving the office, one of my colleagues asked if I had my period because it seemed like I had a huge stain on my black skirt. I told her that I didn’t. But, eventually, we realized that I had accidentally sat on a huge piece of chocolate cake this afternoon during our break. I felt so embarrassed because I walked around the building for hours that afternoon and I didn’t notice or feel it. Also, those who may have noticed it probably didn’t know how to inform me. Huhuhu. You could just imagine my reaction when I found out hours after the incident.

As I sat inside the car on my way home, I still felt ashamed. But because I didn’t want to think about it anymore, I tried to process things. I asked myself why I was so bothered by it. And then, I realized that I became so conscious of other people and of what they thought about the chocolate stain on my skirt. Clearly, my pride was affected and I was thinking too much of myself. I then remembered my time with God earlier today.

God spoke to my heart and convicted me of my pride. If I continue to be proud and if I choose not to acknowledge that the “strengths and good points” that I have were all because of God and His grace, I won’t be giving God the glory He deserves. Today’s incident was such a humbling reminder for me to always humble myself before God, acknowledge my weakness, repent, and do my best to honor and obey Him.

“For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”-Matthew 23:12

Grateful for today. :)
Grateful for today. :)

In spite of the embarrassing (and funny) situation today, I still thank God for showing His grace to me through these three things:

1.) At least, I was wearing a BLACK skirt. Haha!.

2.) I had a colleague who was kind and brave enough to warn/inform me.

3.) God didn’t want to let this day pass without helping me guard my heart from pride.

 

“Whenever I climb too high
Keep my feet on the ground
And when I get full of me turn me upside down
You know pride and not just summer
Come before the fall
So if You that’s getting bigger
I don’t mind being small”

[Jimmy Needham – Being Small]

Encourage yourself one treat at a time.

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!

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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.

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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.