Courageous Caitie Launches Courageous Light

“There are moments that the words don’t reach. There is suffering too terrible to name. You hold your child as tight as you can and push away the unimaginable.”

These lines were taken from Lin Miranda’s song “It’s Quiet Uptown” from the American musical, Hamilton. I’ve been listening to the album for a few weeks now and I always take a deep sigh whenever I hear this particular song. In this tune, the main characters grieve over the loss of their child and other disheartening situations they experienced. It showed the reality of pain and how we feel and deal with it.

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I then remembered the story and life of  Courageous Caitie and how her parents (Jay Jay and Tine Lucas) and family shared their hearts, lives, and experiences to us earlier this year.

Their three-year old daughter, Caitie, was diagnosed last March 2016 with Juvenile Myelomonocytic Leukemia (JMML), a rare cancer of the blood affecting infants and toddlers. Last March 30, her family posted an update on Courageous Caitie’s Facebook page which said: “Today our daughter has gone to Jesus already.”

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It has been been quite a roller-coaster ride for the Lucas family these past few months. But, by the grace of God, they still continue to share God’s love, goodness, grace, and power to people from all over the world. One of the many opportunities that God has given the Lucas family is a movement that aims to help families of children with illnesses find God’s hope and purpose. Last Saturday, their family launched this movement called “Courageous Light”.

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It was a privilege for me to witness the family gather relatives, friends, and strangers at the Gateway Mall Activity Center where they celebrated the life and legacy of Caitie. Here are some of the highlights of the launch last weekend:

 

1. STAR WARS – Star Wars characters showed a demo of how they used their lightsabers. The men and women part of the groups, The 501st Legion and FightSaber, also visit children in hospitals to help share the joy. They joined Caitie in distributing materials and visiting other kids in the hospital a few months ago too. (In the photo below: Jay Jay Lucas and Lem Enriquez hosting the event)

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2. VIDEOS – Videos of Caitie and her parents and family were shared to the audience. These videos included the first birthday of Caitie, hospital visits, interviews of her parents, wake services in the Philippines and in Singapore, and compilations of photos.

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3. GOD’S WORD – Mr. John Ong shared God’s Word and what it means to have Jesus in our hearts and lives; to have Him as our personal Lord and Savior.

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4. GALLERY OF PHOTOS – The family showcased a beautiful gallery of Caitie and their family. From the time she was born up until her heartwarming moments in the hospital with her parents, brother, and relatives. They also shared some of Caitie’s artworks, clothes, shoes, and things by displaying them on two tables (covered in glass) inside the activity center.

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5. LIGHT CEREMONY – The couple distributed cupcakes to those who were in the activity center and they encouraged everyone to participate in blowing the candles to celebrate Caitie’s birthday. In the video below, you’ll hear how Jay Jay shared that the light represents Jesus and that it was their desire to encourage more and more people to keep on sharing the light (Jesus) to those around us.

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6. GOSPEL TREES – They posted large photos of painted trees without leaves. It was the task of the participants to paint the leaves using their fingertips. There were five trees in that area which represented these: HEAVEN (Yellow), OUR SINS (Black), GOD’S LOVE FOR US (Red), , NEW LIFE IN CHRIST (White), and GROWTH (Green). This gallery shared about God’s love, hope, and salvation for us.

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7. COURAGEOUS LIGHT POSTCARDS – These postcards are printed Bible verses illustrated by different Filipino artists to remind us of the power of God’s Word. There were 100 selected postcards that were divided into four volumes. One volume is being sold at Php 495 each. The proceeds from these postcards will be used to fund materials for hospital visits and other events that can help families support their children with illnesses. They also sell other merchandise like notebooks, toys, shirts, etc.

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8. COURAGEOUS LIGHT VOLUNTEERS (a.k.a. Troopers) – The people who worked behind the scenes; those who helped with the program, posters, artworks, decorations, set-up of photos displayed, preparation of materials and merchandise, lights and sounds; the prayer warriors, those who committed to join the team in their hospital visits; and many more. Everyone did a great job! Praise God!

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While I was going around the activity center during the event, I caught glimpses of the couple and how they interacted with friends and strangers. Some of the guests who went there brought their child/children with illnesses to seek comfort from Jay Jay and Tine. It was very heartwarming to see the couple graciously welcome, encourage, and share Jesus to them that afternoon. They continued to point to Jesus for the source of joy, hope, peace, and security even during difficult moments. WOW.

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Just before I went to another part of the gallery, I saw that the couple was being interviewed by one of the reporters in the area. As I watched them eagerly share, I thought to myself “Wow. Many years ago, they wouldn’t have imagined going through what they went through these past three years. But, despite the pain and loss, God’s love, hope, and grace continues to shine through the hearts and lives of the Lucas family. Even though I don’t get to communicate with them often, I am very much encouraged by them to keep my eyes on Christ even if I stumble or go through major bumps along the way.

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“You hold your child as tight as you can and push away the unimaginable.” [The Musical: Hamilton]

In the case of the Lucas family, they aren’t pushing away the unimaginable. By God’s grace, they are going through it; witnessing God’s hand at work in the lives of hundreds of thousands who are being blessed by their testimony of God’s goodness. And this new movement that they are starting is just the beginning of another opportunity to share Jesus to the world. Thank you, Lucas family, for continuously stepping out in faith and trusting in the Lord. I pray that He would embrace you, give you wisdom, strengthen you, keep you from falling into pride or sin, and guide you as you honor Him with the resources He has blessed you with.

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“Don’t let your lights go down. Don’t let your fire burn out.
‘Cause somewhere, somebody needs a reason to believe

So when you get the chance, are you gonna take it?
There’s a really big world at your fingertips and you know you have the chance to change it.”

-Britt Nicole’s “The Lost Get Found”

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” –Ephesians 3:20-21

 

The gallery will be displayed at the Gateway Mall Activity Center until August 13, 2016. But, for the succeeding Saturdays (until Sept. 3), there will be activities for parents and kids. Feel free to drop by! For more details, you may visit the Facebook pages of Courageous Caitie and Today with the Lucas!

Thursday Tune #32: Press On by Mandisa

I guess it’s an early goodbye to the lovely summer skies because they have been very gloomy lately. Most of the time, on my way home from work, I see the surroundings through “natural filters”. It’s almost like everything is set in sepia mode. It’s pretty amazing how the mood of the sky quickly changes and reflects on the buildings, cars, and the people walking on the streets.

I wonder… If the sky can create such an impact to the things and people around us, can our gloomy hearts do the same too?

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I thought about this because I noticed how easily I allowed my heart to be gloomy lately. Specifically, I’ve had moments where I became easily annoyed and discouraged because of difficult people. This lasted for days and it was terrible since it did have an effect on the people around me. One of my closest colleagues even told me that I was becoming moody. In our almost two years of friendship, it was her first time to say something like this to me and it struck a chord in my heart. Without me realizing it, I was already carrying a stormy cloud over my head and it was zapping lightning bolts all over the place.

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I knew something was up (or down, in this case). So, I called for help. Since I had an extended rest time today, I humbly asked God to reveal the concerns of my heart that I needed to deal with and surrender to Him. By His grace, He reminded me of how important it is to be grounded in His truth, love, and promises instead of dwelling and sulking on my issues. I realized that in life, there will always, ALWAYS be problems and discouragements. But, by the grace of God, He gives us the courage and strength to overcome these as we trust in Him who is more than able to work in and through our hearts.

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Earlier today, we experienced a heavy pour of rain in the city. When my mom and I heard and saw the rain, she said to me: “Yes! At least, I won’t have to water the plants today!” She beamed with delight because the rain did one of her “Things to Do” for the day. That simple moment showed me that we can find purpose in the rain. Maybe, we’ve been going through a lot of difficult situations lately. Maybe, we’ve lost our motivation along the way. Nonetheless, we know that God is ALWAYS with us and we can find comfort and hope in this truth.

“The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.”-Psalm 28:7

“Press On” by Mandisa

“How many storms have I been through
How many led me right to You
You’re using the pain, the hardest days
For my good, my good
So what do I fear
God, You are with me
Guiding my steps today
Through the mountains, valleys, sun and rain
Lord, lead the way, lead the way.”

Hello, 2016!

It’s the first day of 2016 and I couldn’t be more excited! Woohoo! There’s always that wonderful feeling whenever I am reminded of a brand new start. Because of the New Year, I’ve been seeing quite a lot of resolutions in my news feed. Some of my friends plan to avoid eating junk food this 2016, while, others will do their best to refrain from shopping for a year.

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I’m still working on my action steps and resolutions. But, more than these things, I find delight in knowing that we can place our hope in God, whose mercies are new every morning. It is because of Him and through Him that we can experience breakthroughs, miracles, and personal transformations this 2016. Yes, regardless of our past, weaknesses, and fears.

“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” –Lamentations 3:21-23

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As we welcome another year, I would like to share one of the treats that remind me of having and enjoying a fresh start. It has been two years since I last prepared Jell-O. So, recently, I tried to make a batch again. This time, I used oranges and watermelon as my base. If you have the time, I encourage you to give it a try as well! For starters, I recommended making the orange wedges first, since the watermelon is a lot more tricky to handle.

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Here’s to enjoying a brand new start and to having a hopeful and fruitful year ahead! God bless you!

“You’re making me stronger. You’re healing my heart.
With Your hands You hold me and You set me apart.

Now I’m made new because of You.

You hold my head up. You remind me who I am.
You hold my head up, I’m alive in You again.
I’m made new.”

-Lincoln Brewster’s “Made New”

(Special thanks to Mom and ate Camille for lending a helping hand. :P )

ORANGE JELL-O WEDGES

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WATERMELON JELL-O SLICES

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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.

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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!

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sweet corn silk hair
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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.

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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.

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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
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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.

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sweet corn
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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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“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.

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sweet corn
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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.

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sweet corn
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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

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Encourage yourself one treat at a time.