Sunflowers and Rain Showers at UP Diliman

“You should get some sun, Nicole.” This was the advice given to me by one of my colleagues after I told her that I still had colds. It’s been three days already and although I think I am getting better, my voice still sounds funny and I still need to bring a lot of tissue wherever I go. While I was scrolling through my news feed yesterday, I saw a photo of one of our family friends which caught my attention. He took a selfie in front of sunflowers! Immediately, I knew that he was inside U.P. Diliman because they do have thousands of sunflowers near the oblation statue. It didn’t take long before I had the idea to visit the place too. Surprisingly, when I asked my older brother if he could go with me today, he agreed!

Sunflowers at UP Diliman (8)

Sunflowers at UP Diliman (1)

I rarely visit Quezon city because it’s not near our home. So, I wanted to drive going to the University of the Philippines. It wasn’t as difficult as I expected. By God’s grace, we arrived before 3 pm and parked a few blocks from where the sunflowers were planted. On our way to the parking lot, I said “Wow” a couple of times as I quickly gazed on the rows of sunflowers. They looked tall, healthy, and beautiful. It was such a lovely sight! As soon as we parked, I grabbed my camera and brought a small bag with me and we walked more than a hundred meters towards the sunflowers.

Sunflowers at UP Diliman (3)

Sunflowers at UP Diliman (14)

I really enjoyed my quick date with my older brother. While we were walking, I took photos of random things on the street and happily shouted “Yay! Kuya, we are spending Independence Day inside the University of the Philippines. I love it!” After maybe 5-8 minutes of walking, we finally saw the sunflowers up close. I could still remember how my eyes beamed with delight as I stared at the sunflowers one by one. Bees were everywhere! They transferred from one sunflower to another, but it didn’t scare us at all. We were just amazed by how the sunflowers grew beautifully. (Side note: We bought Sunflower plants from Tagaytay months before and they didn’t survive at home. Hahaha! So, looking at thousands of sunflowers really made us stand in awe.)

Sunflowers at UP Diliman (2)

Sunflowers at UP Diliman (9)

Sunflowers at UP Diliman (13)

Sunflowers at UP Diliman (11)

I took my time taking photos of the flowers, bees, and my brother. And he also took a lot of photos of me. Haha! It was such a fun and spontaneous activity! I think we stayed for 15-20 minutes in the area. After we took a couple of selfies with the Sunflowers behind us, we started to feel a soft drizzle of rain. We looked up and saw a dark cloud over us but we didn’t think it would rain that hard. Haha. Unfortunately, it did. For the next five minutes, we ran like crazy and stayed under a huge tree with branches sticking out. We just laughed at the random and heavy pour of rain, but we were very grateful too because we had the privilege of quickly touring the place and taking photos while the sun was still out.

Sunflowers at UP Diliman (12)

Sunflowers at UP Diliman (17)

Sunflowers at UP Diliman (18)

I kept laughing and telling my brother how cool the experience was and how amazing and gracious God was! I remembered my prayer on our way to U.P. Diliman and I asked God to protect us and allow us to see and enjoy the Sunflowers. It was a simple prayer from my heart and by God’s grace, He answered it. It was a humbling moment for me because we planned to go to the place by 12 noon. But, because I was late, we left at around 2 pm already. Despite this, He still gave us enough time to have fun and take photos inside U.P. before we got drenched in the rain.

Sunflowers at UP Diliman (4)

Sunflowers at UP Diliman (10)

God really is amazing. To be honest, I would have enjoyed walking, running, and dancing in the rain. But, I had a camera with me, so for obvious reasons, I couldn’t. Haha. Nonetheless, it was a very memorable experience for me and my brother. We eventually took a taxi to the parking lot and we went home safely.

Sunflowers at UP Diliman (7)

Sunflowers at UP Diliman (16)

I sincerely believe that God knows what is best for us no matter what situation we are in. For me, although I think it might not help my colds, the rain at the end of our activity was a bonus because I love rain! He not only allowed me to enjoy the sun and sunflowers this afternoon. But, He literally refreshed us with rain! What a way to celebrate Independence Day! Thank You, Lord.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.

[Psalm 23:1-3]

I’m not sure how long the Sunflowers will be there at U.P. But, if you can, I’d encourage you to drop by and enjoy the view.

Sunflowers at UP Diliman (6)

Sunflowers at UP Diliman (5)

Sunflowers at UP Diliman (15)

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.”

If I Gave You this Cupcake for Free…

…would you still have to pay for it? Or would you simply receive it?

One of the prettiest things I’ve seen in Google Images is a picture of rainbow cupcakes. I guess there really is something about the combination of the colors: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet that sort of makes me smile. Interestingly, if you do some research in the internet or in books, you’ll find out that these colors have different meanings too. :)

This week, it has been raining like crazy here in Manila. Sorry to say, even though I wanted to, I was not able to see a rainbow after the rain. :( And it’s funny because somehow God told me “Hey, Nic. It’s okay if you didn’t see a rainbow. Why don’t you just make rainbow cupcakes instead? Just like the ones you saw in the internet.”, and boy did I smile. The next day, I went to the grocery and bought the ingredients that I needed to make the rainbow cupcakes.

I enjoyed my time preparing the batter of the rainbow cupcakes because my workplace in the kitchen looked so colorful. I couldn’t believe I was really making cupcakes because it actually seemed like I was just playing with paint. :)

After preparing the multi-colored batter of the rainbow cupcakes, I decided not to bake the rainbow cupcake batter first.  I immediately went to my box of baking ingredients and gathered the following food colorings: Yellow, Black, Red, White, and Green. I did so because these colors remind me of something that was more beautiful than the rainbow; something that changed my life. I’ll be sharing more about these below.

I placed the cupcake paper liners in the baking pan and poured in one color at a time. :)

For the first layer, I poured in two tablespoons of the YELLOW batter.

It says in John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

The bible didn’t say “For God SORT OF loved the world…” or “For God WAS FORCED to love the world…”. God clearly wanted me to remember how much He loves me; how much He wants me to have a personal relationship and a meaningful life with Him; and spend eternity with Him in Heaven.

And what’s cool about that is He didn’t say “For God so loved Nicole Obligacion only…”, He said HE LOVED THE WORLD, which includes you too! HE LOVES YOU and WANTS TO SPEND ETERNITY WITH YOU. :) 

For the second layer, I poured in two tablespoons of the BLACK batter.

When ate Camille (my sister) went in the kitchen and saw the black colored cupcake batter, she immediately blurted out “WHAT?? BLACK? Why did you use black?” I just laughed and told her “Eh basta, you’ll see. Hehe.” 

Personally, when I see black, God reminds me of darkness, emptiness, and the biggest problem on earth: SIN. Ate Camille was shocked when she saw the black cupcake batter. I guess it’s the same way too when God sees me enjoying or dwelling in sin.

When I fall into sin, it’s as if I can hear God telling me: “WHAT? You know that I love you so much, Nic, and I give you the freedom to choose. But why choose SIN?” Sadly, that’s reality. I admit that I am a sinner. I lied, I cheated, I stole, I did things that did not please God before. SIN. This is one big problem because…

Romans 6:23 says “For the wages of sin is death…”

Sin separates us from God. As hard as it sounds, the payment for our sins is death. The Bible even talks about two kinds of death: The first is physical (we all know this); but did you know, the second one is actually spiritual death? (This is eternal separation from God :( ) (Revelation 21:8 “…This is the second death.”)

Years ago, when I first heard about this, I started to feel bothered because I knew I’ve done so many wrong things in the sight of God. I just felt so ashamed before God. He has been so good to me and there I was sinning in front of Him. However, one of the many things that I am grateful for is the word “BUT” in the Bible. Why? Because Romans 6:23 says “For the wages of sin is death BUT the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” God uses the word “BUT” here to remind me of hope and of His grace, which leads me to the third layer.

For the third layer, I poured in two tablespoons of the RED batter.

The color red reminds me of the blood of Jesus when He paid the penalty of our sin by dying on the cross.

When the red batter was poured in the cupcake liner, God reminded me of the hope that I have in Him. I realized that I really cannot pay for the penalty of my sin, no matter what I try to do (good works, religion, other efforts…).

This is because of Ephesians 2:8-9 “For it is BY GRACE that you have been SAVED through FAITH – and THIS NOT FROM YOURSELVES, it is the GIFT of GOD – NOT by WORKS, so that no one can boast.”

I thought about it before and realized that even if I did try to save myself and try to go to heaven (after dying) through my own ways, such as doing good works (or others), how will I know when I’ve done enough already to save me? There is no security. There is no assurance. My efforts will not be enough to save me from the penalty of my sin. I really cannot save myself. ONLY ONE can save me. ONLY ONE can save us all. And that ONE is JESUS CHRIST.

John 14:6 “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus did not say “I am A way and A truth and A life.” He is not an option. He is the only solution.  Also, 1 Corinthians 15:3-6 shows us that Christ’s resurrection proves that He is the Son of God, the Messiah, and the only Savior. It brings me to tears to know that someone took my place on the cross to pay the penalty of my sin, which is death.

Jesus didn’t deserve to die and yet He did because He loves us so much. So, what must we do now that we know: how much God loves us, how we have sinned, how Jesus is the only way for us to spend eternity with God in Heaven?

Photo taken from Google Images

We must choose to be reconciled with God and accept the gift of God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Jesus is personally inviting all of us to restore our relationship with Him. Years ago, I made a decision to fully surrender my life to Jesus, I admitted that I am a sinner and I cannot save myself; I believed that He died to pay the penalty of my sin and He rose again; I accepted Him as my personal Lord and Savior; and I claimed Jesus free gift of forgiveness and eternal life.

Taken from Getty Images

If it’s your desire to have a restored relationship with God, I’d like to encourage you to tell God everything that’s in your heart right now. Even before we talk to Him, He actually already knows what we want to tell Him. Just like what I did years ago, you can also let him know the desire of your heart by praying to Him; admitting that you are a sinner and cannot save yourself; believing that Jesus died to pay the penalty of your sins and that He rose again; receiving Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior; and claiming his free gift of forgiveness and eternal life.

For the fourth layer, I poured in two tablespoons of the WHITE batter.

White represents cleanliness, purity, freedom, surrender, etc.

If you decided to sincerely place your trust in Jesus then I’d like to encourage you because…

  1. YOU are 100% forgiven. All your sins are forgiven – past, present, and future. (Seen in Colossians 2:13)
  2. You are a childof God and nothing will separate you from your heavenly Father. (John 1:12; Hebrews 13:5)
  3. You are a new person! (2 Corinthians 5:17)
  4. You will go to heaven. YUP! And you will live with God forever. Eternal life begins the moment you place your trust in Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior. (1 John 5:11-13)

For the last layer, I poured in two tablespoons of the GREEN batter.

The color green reminds me of GROWTH.

Now that I’ve surrendered my life to Him, I want to be able to maximize what He has given me to love Him and love others more. I want to grow more in my walk with Him. And I’d like to encourage you to do the same too! :)

Here are some of the things that we can do to GROW more in our relationship with Jesus:

  1. Read the Bible regularly.
  2. Talk to God through prayer.
  3. Obey Him.
  4. Talk to others about Jesus and the free gift that He has given us. (Just like what I’m doing now: Sharing it through Cupcakes! )
  5. Join Bible studies or groups of people who also want to grow in their relationship with God.

I didn’t want to let this day pass by without sharing to you what Jesus did and how God changed my life because I really, really, really, really, really, really, want to encourage you to KNOW HIM MORE. :)

I think it has been 5 years since I’ve fully surrendered my life to Christ. I actually grew up exposed to this truth, but I just didn’t really want to absorb it in my life back then. However, God changed my heart and life, and since then, I’ve been experiencing the best years of my life with Him.

singing praises to God during one of our practices

Going back to my cupcakes, after preparing both batters, I finally baked them and placed vanilla buttercream frosting on top.

If I gave you these cupcakes for free, would you still have to pay for it? Or would you simply receive it?

God gave us the FREE GIFT of ETERNAL LIFE with Him through Jesus Christ. Would you still have to pay/work for it? Or would you simply receive it? :)

RECIPE: Billy’s Vanilla Cupcakes (featured in Martha Stewart’s Recipes)

INGREDIENTS FOR THE CUPCAKE BATTER:

  • 1 3/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

STEPS:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Line cupcake baking pan with paper liners.
  3. Using an electric mixer, combine both types of flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt; mix on low speed until combined.
  4. Add butter, mixing until just coated with flour.
  5. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, and vanilla.
  6. With mixer on medium speed, add wet ingredients slowly.
  7. Beat until ingredients are incorporated but do not overbeat.
  8. Divide batter evenly among liners, filling about 2/3 full.
  9. Bake (for 17 to 20 mins), rotating pan halfway through, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  10. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  11. Use a small spatula or a piping bag to frost tops of each cupcake.

 

Encourage yourself one treat at a time.