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!

My Boss’ Wedding

My colleagues and I went on a roadtrip to Batangas yesterday for our boss’ wedding. It was a perfect day to relax, enjoy the company of friends, celebrate with the couple, and of course, take a lot of photos. Haha. While we were on the road, one of my colleagues mentioned that the sad thing about bringing a camera to any event is that the photographer is rarely included in the photos. I do agree that the person behind the camera usually ends up with a few photos of himself/herself at the end of the day. However, I do think that bringing a camera still makes it worth the effort as it depends on the photographer’s purpose and focus.

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As soon as we got to the venue and settled down on our seats, I got my camera and started capturing the moments I observed and the people I was with. As the hours passed by, I didn’t even notice that I didn’t have much photos until my other colleague (who is also into photography) offered to take my photo because he knew that I didn’t have a lot of photos yet. I guess it brings a certain joy to my heart whenever I get to look through the lens, see the beauty in the moment, and preserve the memory. Somehow, having few photos or feeling the heavy weight of the camera while I walk up and down stairs and slopes in my 4-inch heels didn’t seem to matter anymore. It just wasn’t my main focus that day.

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When I think about these things now, I can’t help but remember what I witnessed during my boss’ wedding. There was something about the ceremony, reception, and the hearts of the groom and bride that radiated peace and joy. Even though we can try to attribute it to the couple’s personalities, good weather, beautiful venue, or sincerity of their family members, I know that it was because of Jesus Christ – the focus of yesterday’s celebration.

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When the pastor led the ceremony, he emphasized the importance of two things: 1) Trusting in Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior, and 2) Loving like Him. Also, during the exchange of vows, the groom and bride mentioned this phrase “Now, I am excited to wake up each day…” Before they could finish the sentence, I was expecting them to say something cheesy like “…wake up each day and be beside you.” But, they didn’t. Instead, they said: “Now, I am excited to wake up each day and seek the Lord first, so I could know, love, and serve Him with you.”

That was just an amazing moment.

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In this day and age, whenever we hear the word “marriage”, people usually think that the main focus of it is the love between a husband and his wife. However, it was refreshing to see my boss and her husband publicly declare their commitment to God and to each other yesterday. They shared to their family and friends that their marriage is and will always be by God’s grace and for His glory. Clearly, it wasn’t about them. Even while they were exchanging their vows and honoring their parents, they gave the glory to God. It was encouraging to see them sincerely express their desire to know, love, and serve the Lord together as long as they live.

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One of the major highlights yesterday was the couple’s response to their “wedding bloopers”. There were quite a handful of bloopers in the speeches and technical difficulties. But, they didn’t let these little disappointments rob them of the joy that they had. Their wedding wasn’t about showcasing a perfect event or program. It was an opportunity and a privilege for them to give God the glory as they declare their love for Him and for each other. That was their main purpose and focus last night.

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On our way back to the parking lot, I whispered “Thank You!” to God as I looked to the dark blue sky full of twinkling stars. I didn’t have a tripod with me so I couldn’t take a photo of the breathtaking view. But, in that moment, I remembered what had transpired throughout the day and how God encouraged my heart to focus on Him alone. Not on myself, my limitations, disappointments, or the situations I’m in.

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To my boss and her husband (Woohoo!), I pray that you will grow even more in love with the Lord as you enjoy this new season in your lives. Continue to give him the glory in everything that you do. Thank you for sharing your hearts with us on your special day.

“The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

[Numbers 6:24-26]

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I want to leave you with a song that was played during the reception. It’s called “The Marriage Prayer” by John Waller.

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.”

Share the Joy: Shared 50 Free Krispy Kreme Donuts

It all started when my sister and I were running late for work.  Just before 7 am last August 5, she dropped me off at a mall which was a couple of blocks away from my office. She usually drives me to work, but since we left the house late that morning, I had no choice but to walk more than a kilometer to our building. However, on my way to the office, I dropped by the Krispy Kreme store since I still had a lot of time to spare. Walking into the store that morning was one of the biggest blessings I’ve had this year. It was the start of a very interesting and heartwarming adventure for me… oh, and for 50 strangers and friends as well.

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Before I ordered a donut from the store, one of their staff members walked towards me with an original glazed donut in her hand. She cheerfully greeted me and handed me the warm treat. At first, I didn’t understand what was happening, but as soon as she showed me the hot light, I remembered how selected stores would give away free donuts when the light is turned on. It was such an encouraging time for me because I was disappointed with myself and my situation that morning. We left the house late which caused me to walk a longer distance to work. But, when I got a free donut, all I could think of was God’s grace, provision, thoughtfulness, and goodness.

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A week later, the same thing happened again. So, I went on my way and passed by the same route I took before. As soon as I reached the street where the Krispy Kreme store was, I noticed that the hot light was turned on again! Without any hesitation, I walked in the store and they handed me a donut… for free. I remember thinking “Seriously? This is so cool. It’s my second time to receive a free donut this month!” However, instead of eating the treat, God encouraged me to give it away. I gave the second donut to one of the sweepers near the Krispy Kreme store and it was definitely a blessing to share it with a stranger.

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After that day, I told my sister that I was okay with being dropped off a couple of blocks away from our office. When I thought about it, walking that far wasn’t that bad. I knew that it would somehow help me spiritually and physically too. (e.g. simple cardio routine in the morning, have an extended quiet time with the Lord before going to work, etc.). So, ever since August, I’ve been walking more than a kilometer to work every morning, which was a big improvement for me because I was used to bringing a car to work every day for two years. Yay!

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What started out as a disappointment turned into a blessing! As weird and funny as it sounds, in the days, weeks, and months after I got my second free donut, God graciously gave me 50 more opportunities to pass by the store when the hot light was turned on. It was crazy and cool at the same time. Also, when I received the 16th free donut last Sept. 16, I was encouraged to continue sharing the treats to the strangers around me. Somehow, I was encouraged to keep on extending His love and goodness to others by sharing the free donuts that I receive. I usually get one free donut in a day. But, there were some instances when I got two.

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In the last four months, I’ve had the privilege of giving away 50 free, original glazed donuts to 50 friendly strangers and friends in the area. It’s so amazing how God used this experience to speak to my heart. It’s also interesting how Krispy Kreme operates by the motto: “Share the Joy”. As I type this entry on Christmas day, I can’t help but be reminded of the best kind of joy that we can ever experience and share. And it comes from the best gift that I’ve received in my life – JESUS. More than receiving free donuts and having the joy of sharing treats to others, my heart is blessed by the truth that God sent His one and only son, Jesus, to die on the cross and rise again many years ago. He saved us from our sins and He became the only way for us to spend eternity with Him in Heaven. Amazing grace, indeed!

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”-Romans 5:8

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Here are some of the things that I’ve learned by giving away free Krispy Kreme donuts this year:

1. You can’t give what you don’t have. – If it weren’t for the hot light, I wouldn’t have been able to receive and share the free donuts. In the same way, because I’ve experienced joy, peace, and hope in Jesus, I also want to share it with you too. This Christmas season, I pray that we would be encouraged to know, experience, and share Him to others too.

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2. Even when you don’t feel like giving, still give. – There were days when I passed by the store and saw the hot light turned on, but I didn’t feel like getting a free donut and giving it to a stranger. Being the introvert that I am, I usually prefer to just do my own thing. But through the experience, I was encouraged to selflessly give and share the resources that I have to others every time I can, especially if it would help them feel God’s love and goodness.

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3. Sometimes, people will reject you and/or what you share, but don’t let it stop you from sharing what you have. – In the past four months, I think I’ve experienced 3-4 rejections from strangers. I would usually smile and say “Hi! Would you like a free donut from Krispy Kreme?” Usually, the strangers would give me a big smile and say “Wow! Sure! Thank you!”. But, there were a few who gave me a weird/serious look and responded negatively. Sometimes, it made me feel conscious about myself. But, afterwards, I was reminded that giving away the free donuts wasn’t about me, but about the sincere desire to share to others; to help them experience the same joy that I had.

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4. A small act of encouragement goes a long way. – Every now and then, strangers, family, and friends need encouragement. It may seem like a trivial thing to do, but I am encouraged to be a blessing to others even through the simplest things (e.g. sharing bible verses to a friend who is going through a difficult time, praying for and with a family member, listening to a friend, etc.).

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This Christmas, one of my officemates gave me a Krispy Kreme calendar as a gift. It made me smile because it reminded me of the experience that I had this year. I was sincerely happy with the calendar itself. But, after a few hours, I realized that the calendar had coupons for free donuts/drinks and it had discounts too! In her greeting, she said “I am giving this to you because I know that you will be sharing the treats to others too.” Hahaha! I loved the idea! When I first gave a donut away, I didn’t think it would lead me to give 49 more donuts to random people by the end of the year. But, God has His way of using ordinary people to bless others too. I hope and pray that you, dear reader, would be encouraged to know and share the Joy that we have in Jesus as we welcome a new year.

Merry Christmas! :)

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