It’s All About Me, Right?

“You can find the taco shells… at the… uhh… frozen section.”

Clearly, the staff member at the grocery store didn’t know where the taco shells were. Hahaha. I am able to laugh about this now, but last night, when it happened, I honestly couldn’t contain my irritation.

TACO, TOMATO, & CORN

It all started when I was buying ingredients for tacos and shrimp kebabs for yesterday’s dinner. The staff member was arranging the spices on the rack when I asked him where the taco shells were. I already had an idea but because the supermarket had around 40 aisles, I didn’t want to waste time going through a lot of them.

“Frozen section? But sir, they’re taco shells. Similar to chips?” I said. I even showed a picture of the taco shell which was on the packaging of the taco mix I was holding.

He slightly panicked, mustered enough strength, and said “Yes, ma’am. At the… uhh… frozen section.”

“Umm. I don’t think so. But, I’ll just find it somewhere.” I replied as I gave him an awkward and confused stare.

While I was pushing the cart away from him, my mind started to heat up. “What in the world?? Who keeps taco shells or chips at the frozen section?? Was he trying to look confident? If he didn’t know where it was, he could have said so or endorsed me to another staff instead! Ugghh.” I then saw another staff member and asked him where the taco shells were. He gladly assisted me and showed me the correct aisle.

A few minutes later, I went to the vegetable section to get tomatoes and raw corn. Again, I had another encounter with a staff member. After putting my tomatoes in a plastic bag, I asked a staff member who was arranging potatoes in front of me if he could weigh the bag for me. Without even looking at me, he said “Pumunta ka sa kabila.” In English, “Go to the other side.” He was referring to the staff lady who was two meters behind him. (Just two meters!!!)

I didn’t expect that to happen because every time I ask the staff members at the fruits, vegetable, meat, or even fish sections, they usually get the plastic bag and weigh them. If they weren’t in charge of weighing, they would give the bags to the one who is, so that we (customers) wouldn’t have to go around or walk towards the weighing machine. But, unfortunately, the staff member wasn’t in a good or polite mood.

I then walked towards the corn area. As I was selecting the peeled raw ears of corn, I noticed the date printed on the price tag. The packed date was May 7, 2017. It was only May 6. At that moment, I was already starting to have trust issues with this supermarket. If I would go to the store today, I would believe that they only peeled and packed them today (7th). BUT!!! They were packed a day before!

I got a few pieces anyway, paid for the items, and left the supermarket. As I was driving home, I thought about what happened in the grocery store and my encounters with the taco shells, tomatoes, and corn. “What a failure. Wow. They were soooo HAPPY to serve! Right.”

 

JOY IN SERVING

As soon as I sarcastically commented on their service today, I recalled what I read and learned from Matthew 25:31-46 an hour before I went to the supermarket. I remember being reminded by God to put others before myself. To love and serve others and not remain in my selfishness. I even wrote down the acronym shared by our senior pastor at church many years ago: JOY. Jesus first. Others next. Then, You (myself).

I realized how ugly my heart was when I was feeling entitled and selfish the whole time at the grocery store. I wanted people to serve me. I wanted them to make things convenient for me. It was all about ME. But, in reality, everything about me and everything that I have is only by God’s grace.

Maybe the staff member who didn’t know where the taco shells were was new at his job. Maybe the staff member who shrugged me off at the tomato section had deadlines to meet (sacks of potatoes he needed to finish arranging by last night? I don’t know.). And maybe, the computer used to print the price tags of the corn just accidentally had the wrong date — that they didn’t mean to deceive the customers.

Immediately, I apologized to God for my selfish attitude and for how I allowed my anger and annoyance to brew even for just 30 minutes that night. As I surrendered it to God, I remembered the good points that I did see that night too. First, I still got to find the taco shells (at the chips and salsa section) thanks to another staff member. Second, the store sold headless shrimps, which was the kind of shrimp that I needed for kebabs. Third, the cashier lady double checked with me if I wanted to check my balance first before swiping my debit card.

After remembering these things, I thanked God for preparing my heart even before going to the grocery store and for allowing me to instantly experience first-hand what it means to serve others joyfully. Putting others before myself helps change my perspective and behavior. I may not be able to change how people behave or react. But, I can always choose to humbly serve and honor God and others in any situation.

Before I went to the grocery store, after reading Matthew 25, I even asked myself “How can you be a blessing to others? How can you genuinely serve?”

Last night, my older sister (Michelle), younger brother (Gabo), and I were supposed to eat out. But, we decided to spend time together at home instead. Ate Michelle graciously offered to pay for the grocery items and I helped by buying the ingredients and cooking dinner for the three of us. After dinner, Gabo secretly followed me to the kitchen where I was washing the dishes and he whispered “Thanks for cooking dinner!”. When he left, I smiled and thanked God for His grace.

We are all called to serve each other, even through the simplest ways. How can you serve others today? :)

That One Percent

While I was attending a women’s conference last December, God asked me to do something unusual. He encouraged me to give Him my ONE PERCENT. Now, it might sound amusing because most of the time, we would hear others say “You’ve got to give Him 100%.” Or “You’ve got to work 100% to achieve this and that.” But at that moment, He made that action step very clear to me and I’ll let you know why, in a while.

A few days ago, my mom asked me to cook sinigang na hipon using the leftover frozen, tamarind fruits that I had before. When I heard her instruction, I honestly thought to myself “What?? But, cooking sinigang from scratch is hard work. (You can see the detailed steps here: http://encouragingtreats.com/sinigang-na-hipon/) I still have other plans for the day and I don’t feel like spending a lot of time getting the tamarind puree for the soup.”

I told mom that it’s sort of a hassle for me to cook the sinigang from scratch, but I said that I would do it anyway. On our way to church, God spoke to me and showed me how lazy I was and how it has been affecting me and my decisions recently. He told me “Nic, you’re having that ONE PERCENT moment again.” I smiled and said “Oo nga noh, Lord.” He reminded me of a principle that He taught me a few weeks ago. A principle that helped change my heart. :)

It was the week before my birthday (Dec. 16) when I experienced a drought in my spiritual life. Yes, I did get to spend time with God, but somehow, I knew that I wasn’t always making God the center of my life and decisions. At the conference, we were given 30 minutes of quiet time and I took that moment to share to God how I was feeling and what I was going through.

I spent that time confessing to God how I haven’t been giving my 100% to Him in the different aspects of my life. I told Him that I felt like I was only giving Him 1% and that I only had 1% desire for Him. Also, I knew that He had already forgiven me, but because I only had 1%, I felt that it would be better if I just didn’t go near Him. I thought that I might just end up disappointing Him again.

A few minutes later, He led me to read John 3:16-21.

Verse 21 hit me, where it says: “But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”

I realized that maybe one of the reasons why I had 1% desire for God at that time, was because I was “hanging out with” and loving darkness more. And by darkness, I mean the things that distracted me from spending more time with God and focusing on Him. (e.g. laziness, being physically tired/not being physically fit, social media, music, etc.)

But, God pointed out to me one of the most amazing truths in the Bible, which is found 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.”

from Google Images

Right then and there, God comforted me as I remembered what Jesus did for us and how He saved us from the penalty of our sins by dying on the cross. What He has already done for us matters more than what we do for Him.

During the last few minutes of my quiet time with God, I wrote this down on my journal:

“Thank You, Lord, for encouraging me to not give up and let go of that 1% desire that I have for You… even if it’s just 1%. I know that there would still be times when I would get distracted and be lazy to spend quality time with You, but You’ve reminded me that You will never give up on me and that You will always love me. And so, by Your grace, I draw near to You again and pray that You will use this 1% desire that I have for You and allow it to continue growing in me each day. May You be honored above all.” :)

I realized that in the same way, just like how I’ve had that 1% desire for God a few weeks ago, I noticed how I’ve also had that 1% desire to work hard and cook the sinigang from scratch last Sunday. But by God’s grace, He encouraged me to give Him that percentage and cook the dish despite the hassle. Why? Because I knew that obeying mom by cooking it bwould honor God.

(By the way, the tamarind puree that I got from the fruits wasn’t enough, so I ended up adding Tamarind spices too. In the end, God also allowed me to experience the convenience of using instant Sinigang mix — what I originally wanted to use. :) )

Even if you only have that 1% desire to love the people around you; to forgive those who’ve hurt you; to thank others; to obey and respect your authorities; to humble yourself before God and others; to spend time with God; to work/study hard; and even to exercise/discipline your body… Do it anyway. :) Even if it’s just one percent, I encourage you to surrender it to God because He can still use it for the good and for His glory. :)

 

Sour Tamarind

 

Encourage yourself one treat at a time. :)

 

Won’t Take My Eyes Off of You

I’ve always been fascinated with our digital camera’s macro mode. I like how it lets the camera focus on the main subject and sort of blurs the rest of the things behind or beside it. For the past blog entries that I’ve posted here at Encouraging Treats, I’ve used our digital camera to capture the memories I’ve had with the treats I’ve baked and cooked. However, to my dismay, I found out last Saturday night that our one and only camera wasn’t working anymore. I couldn’t believe it.

I was supposed to make my treat last Saturday night, but, I hesitated because I didn’t have a camera at that time. I remember telling God: “Lord, I can’t use my phone to take photos of the next treat. It doesn’t have a macro mode. It’ll only produce mediocre photos, and I can’t use mediocre photos in this food blog…” I sighed and eventually called it a night.

 

I didn’t realize how I stubborn I was until the next morning at church. Pastor Vince Burke shared about fixing our eyes on Jesus and focusing on Him in every situation. God convicted me while I was listening to His word because I clearly focused on the wrong thing. I focused on what was less important: having good pictures for this food blog.

After the service, I spent time with God and confessed what was in my heart. I apologized for my behavior and for focusing on the appearance and presentation of the food/treat, than on the ultimate encouraging treat: God’s Word.

 

I told God, “Sorry, Lord, that I didn’t want to blog this Monday just because I didn’t have a good camera. It was very foolish of me. I know that even without a camera and without photos of the treat, You could still use me and this blog to encourage others to know You more… if it’s Your will. Sorry, for not focusing on You. But, I thank You too, because I still have a camera phone to use.” :)

A few hours later, on our way home, I got a text message from my mom and she informed me that she had our camera fixed. I couldn’t believe my eyes! What a privilege! What an awesome treat! I immediately thanked God for His grace. Despite my stubborn and distracted heart, God still gave me another chance to use a good camera. More importantly, He gave me another opportunity to focus on Him and on His Word.

I spent the rest of the night preparing and cooking a batch of shrimp tempura. In the process of doing so, I decided to use both my phone and our camera (in macro mode) to take photos of the shrimps. It was interesting because I was able to compare the photos taken from both gadgets. Those taken using the camera (in macro mode) were indeed better and clearer than the blurry ones from my phone.

“Wow, Lord!” I told God. “Ang galing talaga ng macro mode sa camera! It really focuses on the main thing and blurs its surroundings. Because of this, I get to enjoy the clear, bright, and beautiful photos of the tempura! Thank You!”

Right then and there, I learned that God wasn’t only letting me appreciate the photos taken using the camera. He was also encouraging me to learn and apply this spiritual principle in my life as well: Just like how the macro mode in the camera allows the lens to focus on the main thing, we must fix our eyes too on the main thing. We must fix our eyes on Jesus.

It says in Hebrews 12:1-2

“…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”

“We fix our eyes on Him, even if we are in pain.

We fix our eyes on Him, even when our hearts break.

We fix our eyes on Him, even if we stumble and fall.

We fix our eyes on Him, because He is in control.

We fix our eyes on Him, whose love for us never fails.

We fix our eyes on Him, whose mercies are new each day.

We fix our eyes on Him, whose grace will see us through.

We fix our eyes on Jesus, who is faithful, right, and true.”

-Yours Truly

Have we been fixing our eyes on Jesus?

By God’s grace, I know that we can.

And I pray that we won’t take our eyes off of Him each day. :)

 

Encourage yourself one treat at a time! :)

 

Shrimp Scampi with Guacamole

A few days ago, my younger brother was confined and advised to stay at the hospital for the weekend. I knew that it was a perfect opportunity for me to treat the family with something special. I decided to prepare Shrimp Scampi with Guacamole on toasted slices of Baguettes. I originally wanted to make another shrimp dish; but, I remembered how chefs would always say that shrimps and avocados make a good combination. Interestingly, God taught me two important lessons when I made this dish.

  1. God gives us everything we need in His perfect time for His good purposes in our lives.

I went to the grocery to buy my main ingredients: Shrimps and Avocados. However, to my dismay, all of the avocados were still green and unripe. I wanted to go to another supermarket but since it would be a hassle, I decided to stay instead. In the meantime, I went to the seafood section to get shrimps and started talking to God. “Lord, I don’t know how, but I know that if You really want me to make guacamole, You will provide the avocados. Thank You.” :)

After getting the shrimps, I decided to pass by the avocados again. Would you believe it? Hidden underneath the vegetables beside the green avocados were 3 packs of purple, ripe, Hass Avocados! I couldn’t believe my eyes! “Wow, Lord! Those ripe avocados weren’t here a while ago. Thank You so much!” I immediately grabbed the avocados and paid for my groceries.

The wonderful thing about the hidden, ripe avocados that God gave me was that they were Hass/Haas avocados (the best type to be used for the guacamole recipe that I had). It was really encouraging to be reminded by God that He will continue to provide for our needs and give us what is best for us according to His will.

It says in Philippians 4:9

“And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

 

2.       How God sees us, rather than how we/others view ourselves, is the only thing that matters.

After making the guacamole, I prepared the other ingredients for the shrimp scampi. I noticed that some of the chefs recommend removing the heads of the shrimps before cooking so that they would look more presentable.

Before I cooked the shrimps, I was torn between removing their heads and keeping them intact. “Is the head of a shrimp really that undesirable?” I asked myself. I then remembered instances before when people would use the term “Shrimp” to describe a person who has a great body, but has an ugly face.

I thought about it more and decided NOT to remove the heads, because I remembered my mom who always used the heads of the shrimps to enhance the flavor of the dish. I knew that there was something in the shrimp’s head that was useful, despite its “ugliness”.

True enough, while I was cooking the shrimps with butter and garlic, I saw some of its juices flow out of their heads. “Thank You, Lord, that I didn’t throw the heads away.” I whispered to God as I took a sip of the delicious sauce of the shrimp scampi.

After taking photos and preparing the dish, I suddenly remembered an interesting trivia about shrimps that I read a few weeks ago. Did you know that a shrimp’s heart is located in its head?* “Hahaha! What a funny trivia, Lord!” I told God. But, amusingly, He used that fact to speak to my heart.

God purposely placed the heart of a shrimp in its head. And it’s amazing because although the head of a shrimp is perceived by others to be useless, not presentable, and undesirable; it actually contains the very thing that gives the animal the ability to live: its heart. Moreover, the head contains certain elements that produce more ‘shrimp flavor’.

In the same way, I am reminded me that God created me for a special purpose and He made me the way I am according to His good will. Moreover, He encouraged me to focus on what’s more valuable to Him (my heart and how I see myself and others through His eyes) than on the opinions and expectations of the people around me.

It says in 1 Samuel 16:7

“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Avocados and shrimps definitely make a good combination, most especially, when God uses both ingredients to encourage our hearts. :)

Encourage yourself one treat at a time. :)

 

*trivia taken from www.weirdfacts.com