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.*

This World Is Not Our Home

On my way home from work last Friday night, I recorded a song in the car, out of the overflow of my heart. Just a few seconds after I said thanks to God for allowing me to finish it, I heard a loud, consistent beat at the right side of my car. A motorcyclist who drove by me then, signaled me to stop and look at my wheel. During the next three minutes, my world slowed down as I went out of the car to inspect the damage.

My jaw dropped as I saw my exploded tire at the side of the passenger’s seat. My mouth blurted out, “Shocks, Lord. Is this really happening? Please help me.” Within a  minute, even before I could call my dad, another motorcyclist stopped by to ask if I needed help. My initial reaction was “I hope this guy isn’t sketchy.” But in my desperation, I said, “Yes, please!” He spent the next 10 minutes, going through my car tools at the back, setting up my emergency signals, and trying to release the spare tire that was hidden under my car.

I remember telling him countless times how much I appreciated his help and how it really was impossible for me to change my tire by myself. After a few minutes, another motorcyclist stopped by to offer assistance. They ended up helping each other as they raised my car, changed my tire, protect me from being scammed by tow people, and even assist me as I drove to the nearest vulcanizing shop. All this happened in 25 minutes which may have caused a 30-minute delay along C5 north bound.

I safely drove home, by God’s grace, and updated my dad, mom, and eldest sister who were inside our house. I couldn’t contain what I was feeling, so I shared to them how the Lord had been so personal and intentional in teaching my heart a lesson AGAIN. With a few sobs, I shared that the Lord revealed one of my blind spots to me this week which crushed my heart and that it led me to composing a song that afternoon.

The song is entitled “This Isn’t My Home” and it talks about how our mistakes and regrets do not define us; how we have already been forgiven and free because of Jesus; how we are never alone; and how this world (with all our problems and pains) isn’t our home. It was such a humbling moment for me to realize that God knew my doubtful heart needed that push, that extra reminder through an exploded tire, for me to understand and absorb my security in Jesus and His unending and unconditional love for me. “This Isn’t My Home” was a timely encouragement too since I was literally on my way home when this happened.

“…live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things that you were redeemed from the empty way of life… but with the precious blood of Christ…” -1 Peter 1:17-19 

My heart broke this week because I sulked at the thought of how my blind spots, mistakes, shortcomings, and regrets affected my relationships with others and God. I wanted to turn back time and re-do some of my choices. I wanted to cringe and hide because of the shame and pain. But, this has always been a constant reminder for me:

GOD’S MERCIES ARE NEW EVERY MORNING. What a comforting reassurance from the Lord — this broken world is not our home! Because of Jesus, we can spend eternity with Him in Heaven, where there’ll be no more crying or pain; where angels will be praising His name.

The day after the incident, my dad accompanied me to buy new tires even if he needed to prepare for a message at church that afternoon. By God’s grace, God provided the two kind strangers (Anthony & June) at the right time who helped me on the road and my dad who guided and lent money to me for my new set of wheels.

There are still moments when I feel the ache in my heart especially when I remember my “What If’s” and other regrets. Sometimes, I still feel that I could make things better if only I had done certain things or made better decisions. But, as the Lord helped me see my frailty without Him, I am reminded to let go of the wheel, slow down, and trust that His ways, thoughts, and wisdom are better and higher than mine. Who am I to tell my Heavenly Father that Plan A is better than Plan B? Who am I to keep worrying about my past and my tomorrow when our God is sovereign and good?

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” -Isaiah 55:8-9

“For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” – 1 Corinthians 1:25

Today is a new day and the Lord has graciously put a new song in my heart. Thank You, Jesus, for Your sovereignty in the midst of my mistakes and regrets.

“One fall, one sin,

One mistake, one regret

Now, my world’s crumbling.

More lies, more heartbreaks.

More discouraging thoughts,

Will they ever go away?

In these times when my faith is shaken,

In these times when I begin to lose hope,

You remind me that You are still with me, Jesus.

You tell me that I’m never alone

And that this isn’t my home.”

-“This Isn’t My Home”

Thursday Tune #35: Weightless by Hawk Nelson

“I say no more, no more wasting a moment, worrying about my life, my life. Carried in Your love. God, I know I got no burdens dragging me down. My soul is lifted because You’re holding me now.”

These lyrics caught my attention while I was driving home after a long day at work. I was intrigued by the song’s concept, melody, and beat. It was as if the songwriters knew what I was going through at that moment. So many things were on my mind. So many insecurities, hesitations, and fears were hindering me from moving forward. Somehow, it felt like I was climbing up a mountain while carrying a heavy backpack filled with huge rocks. 

As I listened to the song, I was reminded of truths about who God is. He is sovereign and faithful. He cares for you and me. He watches over us and He is our Father who loves us eternally. Going back to the truths found in His word helped me to slowly let go of my baggages.

I hope that as you listen to the song, you will also be encouraged to 1) humbly draw near to Him and 2) allow Him to work in your heart when you surrender your anxieties and burdens to Jesus.

 

Some verses that I hold on to whenever I am tempted to stay discouraged:

1 Peter 5:6-7

“Humble yourselves, then, under God’s mighty hand, so that he will lift you up in his own good time.  Leave all your worries with him, because he cares for you.”

Philippians 4:6-7

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Isaiah 40:28-31 

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

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.

Courageous Caitie Courageous Light (17)

 

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.”

courageous caitie 2

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”.

Courageous Caitie Courageous Light (1)

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)

Courageous Caitie Courageous Light (2)

 

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.

Courageous Caitie Courageous Light (3)

 

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.

Courageous Caitie Courageous Light (6)

 

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.

courageous caitie

Courageous Caitie Courageous Light (8)

 

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.

Courageous Caitie Courageous Light (5)

 

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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Courageous Caitie Courageous Light (14)

 

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.

Courageous Caitie Courageous Light (18)

Courageous Caitie Courageous Light (13)

Courageous Caitie Courageous Light (16)

 

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!

Courageous Caitie Courageous Light (7)

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.

Courageous Caitie Courageous Light (11)

Courageous Caitie Courageous Light (10)

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.

Courageous Caitie Courageous Light (12)

“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.

Courageous Caitie Courageous Light (4)

“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!