Same Hair, New Me

The longest hair length I’ve had since 2017.

If you know me, you’d agree when I say that I am very particular with how my hair is cut, especially my bangs. This is because I preferred hiding my forehead and ears using my hair. I just didn’t like these features of mine! Whenever I went out and I needed to wear a ponytail for sports and gym or encounter strong winds blow against my hair, I would get very conscious about how I look.

Three years ago, I discovered the hairstylist who could perfectly maintain it for me. Since then, I’ve had my hair trimmed every 3 months ONLY BY HIM. (Miss you, Bruno!)

But this Quarantine, I couldn’t have my hair trimmed anymore and I can’t trust myself or others to cut it for me yet.😨 Also, because the weather in Manila has been extremely hot recently, I didn’t have a choice but to put my hair up and even use this headband to keep my bangs away from my face. At first, I remember feeling so conscious whenever I would attend Zoom meetings looking like this. But as the weeks passed by, I’ve learned to appreciate and be grateful for what I already have — A lovely forehead and two ears that help me hear. Haha!

But seriously, by God’s grace, this big thing that I used to care about and invest in didn’t seem so important this time around — especially when I see how fleeting life is. So, tadaaa! This is the real me… posting as a way for me to help break the cycle of insecurities in my life.🥳 Baby steps, Nic. Baby steps.

(Photos taken yesterday, one hour apart)

My Starbucks Confession

I’d like to confess something that some of you may already know about me…

I like going to Starbucks.😅

It started when I fell in love with their frappuccinos back in college, even if I did not (and still do not) have a sweet tooth. This love grew when I realized that I could have quality, quiet times in this coffee shop! My introverted self was overjoyed! Starbucks is usually expensive and unhealthy for my body, but ironically, it has been very good for my heart. I can’t even count the number of times the Lord has spoken to me thru His word, broken me, and revealed Himself to me in the various Starbucks shops I’ve stayed at before. There were moments when I would even cry quietly or write songs and poems and not have a care in the world. It has been a safe space for me.

During my quiet time last February 25, 2018, when I was struggling with insecurities, I was encouraged to be intentional in reminding myself of my identity in Christ. Each time I bought a drink in Starbucks, I decided to ask the barista to write one identity on it. Every time they finished preparing my drink, they would call out: “One Java Chip frappuccino for REDEEMED!” or “One Black Tea with Ruby Grapefruit & Honey for FORGIVEN!” …and I would receive it!

It was awkward at first, because the baristas usually gave me a confused look whenever I asked them to write these down. But as time passed by, my barista friends got used to it that even before I said my order, they would ask me in advance, “Hi Nicole! What would be your name for today? :)”

It was a really good way for me to remember my name — WHO I AM — my identity in Jesus! I am forgiven, redeemed, free, never alone, new, beautiful, accepted, alive, and many more! It fueled the desire in me to keep on digging deep in God’s word and seeing myself through His eyes. By God’s grace, this “Starbucks Identity Cups” experience even gave me the opportunities to engage in conversations about the Bible with the baristas that serve my drinks.

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” -Colossians 2:6-7 

This afternoon, I was tempted to dwell on my insecurities again. I asked the Lord why He was still allowing me to have them despite me knowing and believing the truth, and even experiencing Him in my life. I didn’t get a specific answer from Him, but somehow, I did feel peace in my heart as I recalled how these insecurities have helped me to run towards Him and His word each time I hurt and fall. I felt the Lord shifting my focus on my struggle and what I can do to overcome it, to who He is and what Jesus, my Lord and Savior, has already done for me when He died and rose again. It reminded me of John 16:33 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.”

It has been a year since I started the Starbucks Identity Cups and I am still attacked by insecurities and worries every now and then. But, Jesus has always been constant, faithful, and gracious. And because He is who He is, I will fix my eyes on Him and trust that He will finish the work that He started in my heart. I pray that I will indeed stay rooted and find my true security and identity in Christ alone.

Since this isn’t the healthiest way, I am praying that I will be able to be more resourceful in finding other shops or spots where I can journal and dig deep without being distracted. But until then, I will most likely visit this coffee shop. (Please feel free to give suggestions. :) )

When Insecurities Strike

“Words can build you up. Words can break you down. Start a fire in your heart or put it out.” –Hawk Nelson

Recently, a friend said something to me that crushed my heart. That friend didn’t mean to do so, but because the words triggered my past struggle with insecurity, it affected me so much this week. Even though I knew that it was just a joke, I started to believe in the lies in my head and the thoughts distorted my view of God.

During the week, I spent a lot of time pouring my heart out to God and I kept reminding myself of the truth: that God loves me and that my hope and security can only be found in Him. However, despite this, I still felt a huge burden on my heart even while I was asleep. There were times when I would wake up in the wee hours of the morning and feel my heart break again.

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But, by God’s grace, He spoke to me one night while I was writing on my journal. I shared to Him that I think my top love language is “Words”. It fills me whenever people encourage me with words (e.g. in person, through social media or letters, etc.). On the other hand, whenever hurtful words are said to me, my heart cringes.

While I was sharing my feelings and struggle to God, He revealed to me the pride that was lingering in my heart. Why was I so affected by what my friend said? Why do I dwell on what others tell me? Why do I easily get hurt when people intentionally or unintentionally magnify my flaws and weaknesses or compare me to others through their words?

And then, it hit me. My thoughts and feelings were all about me. ME!! Immediately, God humbled me and I confessed the pride in my heart. I also asked God to help me honor Him with my heart and mind. That night, I was reminded that at the end of each day, it doesn’t matter how I compare to the people around me. It doesn’t matter how well I did or didn’t do at work or in my personal activities. It’s not even about how much I’m doing for Christ in ministry. It’s about what Jesus has already done for us. Because of God’s love, Jesus died and rose again to pay for the penalty of our sins, so we could spend eternity with Him in Heaven.

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“Did you hear what I said? Did you read the words I wrote down in red? I was broken once for you and no one loves you like I do.” –‘All the Broken Pieces’ by Matthew West

Nothing should concern me more than my relationship with God. Nothing.

Instead of being affected by what others say to me, God encouraged me to focus on His words and truths found in the Bible. His voice is the only thing we need to hear. Every now and then, I know that I will be tempted to feel insecure. But, I am encouraged by God to keep on remembering who He is in my life. The same God who created the universe and everything in it is the same sovereign and powerful God who can make beautiful things out of ordinary people like you and me. The same God who gave and sacrificed His Son for us is the same loving and gracious God who will continue to love us in spite of our imperfections, struggles, and mistakes.

Whew.

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After going through an emotional roller coaster ride this week, I woke up this morning with a grateful heart because of the hope that I have in Jesus. By His grace, He made today an extra special day for me because my friends from church (the ladies I’m growing with in a discipleship group) surprised me with a pot of flowers and verses to encourage me. They knew that I was struggling this week, so they made a simple but very encouraging effort to help me focus on Jesus again. I loved it so much because it affirmed my decision last night to dwell on God’s truth and His words in the Bible. Aaaaahhhh. You are amazing, God!

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It is my prayer that I may not only seek Him and His words this week, but, that He may also help me say words to the people around me that will edify and encourage them to remember and pursue God as well.

Psalm 19:14 “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

Stick to the Truth

My dad picked me up from work a few days ago and we had an interesting conversation on the way home. For some reason, we started reminiscing about our experiences at our old house in Cainta and I shared to him one of my “Cainta moments” that I will never forget.

Last June 21, 2009, my family and I were on our way home from church and I remember feeling so insecure about my physical appearance, my height, my status in life, academics, and many more. But God somehow encouraged me to sing “Here in My Life” by Hillsong and I was comforted by the lyrics of the song. When we reached the house, we realized that we didn’t have the house keys with us! We were stuck inside our garage!

From my journal. Dated 6/9/2009
From my journal. Dated 6/21/2009

After a few minutes, I was tempted to complain about the situation, but God encouraged me to help my family find a way to get in our house instead. My older brother and I snuck into the side garage and saw a small window in our kitchen which wasn’t locked. We then weighed the pros and cons of me going through it and tried to measure my body to see if I could fit. Kuya ended up giving me a lift and I miraculously squeezed myself into the small window. I think the window was as “big” as a piece of bond paper.

From my journal. Dated 6/9/2009
From my journal. Dated 6/21/2009
I couldn't find a nice shot of our kitchen window. This photo was taken after we experienced Ondoy. :)
I couldn’t find a nice shot of our kitchen window. This photo was taken after we experienced Ondoy. :)

We were both laughing as we tried to get my body inside the kitchen because it was actually crazy and funny, but by God’s grace, I was able to make it through! I then ran to the front door, opened it, and called my other siblings and parents. God knew what was going on in my heart a few minutes before we got home and He definitely knew how to encourage me. I was insecure about my petite body, but that day, God showed me that He had a special purpose for it.

From my journal. Dated 6/9/2009
From my journal. Dated 6/21/2009

Through that experience, I was reminded of God’s goodness and grace. I was reminded of how He made each and every one of us the way we are for our good and for His glory. And it was encouraging because it also showed me how our loving and powerful God chooses to use people like you and me to experience His strength and greatness in our lives in spite of our insecurities and weaknesses.

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To this day, I still praise God whenever I remember that moment because I am encouraged to seek and focus on Him whenever I struggle with insecurities. Moreover, God continues to remind me of His amazing love for me through the Bible. His truth written on it immediately changes my perspective, wipes off the lies and negative thoughts that I have, and strengthens my heart even more.

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I was spending time with God and his word earlier today and I noticed that I unintentionally kept a lot of my sticky nametags (from past events) in my Bible. Interestingly, when I saw this, God used it to remind me of my identity in Christ. In this world, I know that I would probably have and encounter more thoughts and lies about my self-worth and security, but, God’s encouraging me to keep on sticking to the truth — to His words in the Bible.

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Romans 5:8 says “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

“You showed me how much You really loved me,
When You bought me at the highest cost

There’s no greater love than this, There’s no greater love than this,
That a man would give his life for a friend;
There’s no higher sacrifice than a man would give his life,
You have paid a precious price for me.”

[Don Moen’s “No Greater Love”]

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Thank You, Jesus, for reminding me to look to You every time I struggle and remember that You died and rose for me, You chose me, You love me unconditionally, and that I am Yours for eternity. Indeed, I need not be insecure, because You are more than enough for me. Jesus, You are more than enough for me. :)

 

Encourage yourself one treat at a time. :)