30: When Pain Meets Peace

I didn’t think I would celebrate my 30th year like this. I had big plans of studying abroad and pursuing a dream. But here I am, stuck at home, still in quarantine… and now, with a terrible ear infection. The past few days have been such a hassle because of constant sharp pains in my ear and head and how my left ear has been temporarily deaf.
But, by God’s grace, He has given my heart sooo much peace, as I can see that He remains to be good and faithful. He even provided through my EENT dad (thank you po!). In the midst of all the emotional, mental, and physical pains this year, cancelled plans, and unanswered prayers… I know that this is exactly where my sovereign God wants me to be.
After a good cry and while still feeling the throbbing pain in my ear, He gave me the strength to record a draft of a new song I wrote last November.
Today, as I look back on the past three decades of my life, I want to honor the reason why I’m still alive… and His name is JESUS. I hope that through this song, you will also be encouraged to remember His faithfulness, love, goodness, and grace in your life.
The song’s title is “VICTORY”, which was inspired by my victorious God… and by the meaning of my name, Nicole (“Victory of the People”).

Almost 30 and Still Single

Yup! Single since birth.

I just attended the wedding of one of my closest friends this weekend. After the reception, I went to my room to rest early, but I ended up having this headache (maybe from dehydration) mixed with a flurry of thoughts about marriage and my singleness. I started counting the number of weddings I attended since I graduated from college (9 years ago) and I realized that last night was already wedding #20. I told myself “Wow, parang yung movie na “27 Dresses” lang ah. Always a bridesmaid, never a bride? Haha.” But despite the soft laugh I gave myself, I knew that my heart was silently asking the question “Why, Lord?”

 

THE STRUGGLE IS REAL

“Why am I still single, Lord? Is it because of my physical appearance? My personality? My friendships and relationships? Consequences of my past sins?” As I wondered about it and even entertained some lies in my mind, I noticed how my assumptions were all about me.

I realized that even my singleness IS NOT about me, what I have, or what I lack. It is still about God, His grace and faithfulness, and His good and perfect will.

The Lord has been speaking to my heart ever since I started dating years ago. I have had so many humbling lessons learned, rebukes, and gracious moments I’ve encountered with the Lord. Some recent ones were revealed through songwriting. Last year, I noticed that 7 out of the 17 songs I wrote were directly related to my heart’s struggle with my non-existent love life. Every time I play them, I remember both the ache and peace that I felt as I wrote them and opened my heart to the Lord.

I am sincerely happy for family and friends who transitioned into marriage and parenthood through the years. And by God’s grace, friends would tell me how they notice that I am still joyful despite not being in a relationship. But honestly, there would still be times when I would struggle in my mind and heart, despite knowing that Jesus remained single until death and yet His life gave glory to God. Sometimes, I would find myself crying as I drive through the traffic along C5 on the way home, just being quiet before the Lord. Other times, my heart would feel a slight sting when I catch a glimpse of couples holding hands or expressing their love and commitment to each other.

Moreover, when people would tell me that they are praying for my future husband, or hope that I will have one, or even insist that I WILL have a future husband in God’s perfect timing, I can’t help but wonder, “Yes, I do have the desire for marriage. But why does it seem like getting married is more favorable than being single? What if it isn’t His will for me to have a future husband? Because that IS a possibility.”

Recently, someone casually told me “Okay yan, at least hindi ka pa thirt—“. Then, she stopped when she realized she was walking on eggshells. I responded with “Why? What’s wrong with being 30 already?” She didn’t continue the conversation anymore. This 2020 will be my 30th year on Earth. A part of me is extremely grateful as I look back on the journey that God allowed me to go through with him in the past decades. But another part of me is whispering to myself, “Oh no. You are almost 30 and STILL single.”

 

THE CRY OF MY HEART

There are a few reasons why I am sharing these things on the blog. First, documenting my struggles and victories through writing helps me process my thoughts. Somehow, being able to express these in words makes the burden in my heart feel lighter. Second, in case there are others out there who also feel the same way or go through similar situations, I want to let you know that you are not alone in this. This topic is usually kept in secret as it may come off as a sensitive issue, but I realized how talking about this may help those who also struggle with it. And lastly, I do want to share the hope and joy that we have in Jesus, even as I am struggling with this.

Before writing this post, I was having an honest conversation with the Lord and I told Him that…

…my heart was breaking not just because of my singleness, but because I could see how my heart isn’t content in Him,

despite surrendering my life to Jesus and accepting Him as my personal Lord and Savior. I then recalled similar patterns of personal brokenness, impurity, insecurities, and idolatry in my past dating experiences and I asked for the Lord’s forgiveness.

Indeed, nothing or no one can ever fully satisfy the deepest longings of our souls and hearts. ONLY JESUS CAN. 

As I opened my heart to the Lord, He reminded me of His unending love and grace and of Psalm 73:25-26 specifically, which says: Whom have I in Heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” 

This is the cry of my heart — to long for Jesus and His Word more than anyone or anything else, all the days of my life. Should He desire for me to get married someday, I pray that my heart will respond in total surrender to His timing and will and that He alone would be glorified. But for now, I would like to humbly ask for your prayers, as I continue in this journey of singleness and battle discontentment by the power of the Holy Spirit. I pray that the work of my hands would be productive and that the words of my mouth and meditation of my heart will be pleasing to God (Psalm 19:14).

Sharing with you a draft recording of a song I wrote last June 2019, entitled “This Is Love”. This best expresses how I feel about this concern. Whatever season you may be at right now, whether you are 30, 40, 50, 60 years old and single, I hope this will also encourage your heart to desire and seek the Lord each day. He loves us so much. More than we can ever imagine.

TAIWAN: Jiufen Old Street

When we were finalizing our itinerary for our recent trip to Taiwan, we found out that one of the highly recommended places to visit was Jiufen Old Street. It would have been a lovely experience to tour the place without the rain. But nonetheless, I did enjoy going through the narrow streets, going up and down the hill, dropping by some of the stores, and seeing the beautiful view of the mountain, temple, and foggy sky.

In this post, I’ll be sharing photos of our experience and how we traveled from Taipei to Jiufen and back to Taipei again.


TAIPEI TO JIUFEN

We started our journey by riding Taipei’s MRT. When you reach Beimen station (Green line), look for the pathway leading to A1.

There, you’ll see more maps and directions leading to their TRA (Taiwan Railways Administration). Once you arrive at the TRA station, enter Platform 4. We weren’t sure about the right train, so we asked help from their staff. Thankfully, they directed us to catch the local train going to “Su’ao” which leads to Ruifang Station.

When you reach Ruifang Station, exit towards the area where the store “Lick Lick Ice Cream” is. Beside that is a stairway leading to an underground pathway towards Ruifang’s police station.

Within that area, you’ll see a bus stop where this sign is posted. It contains directions to the bus stop leading to Jiufen Old Street. Take note of the correct bus numbers: 965, 788, and 1062.

We walked towards that bus stop and rode one of the buses mentioned. It took us around 15 minutes to travel by bus before we reached the stop near Jiufen Old Street. Most people riding the bus will go down at the stop “Jiufen Old Street”, not “Jiufen Police Station”.

Once there, you’ll need to walk uphill for a few minutes until you see a 7/11 store beside the main entrance of Jiufen Old Street. Just around the curve of the road.


JIUFEN TO TAIPEI

After touring the place, from 7/11, walk uphill again for 1-2 minutes until you see the bus stop across the huge JIUFEN letters on the wall. Wait in line for Bus 1062 since this will bring you to Songshan Station (Green line). It will take you 16-17 stops from Jiufen Old Street to Songshan station. From there, you can ride the MRT to your next destination.

WHAT TO EXPECT INSIDE JIUFEN OLD STREET

We weren’t able to finish touring the place due to time constraints and fatigue. Haha! But, in a nutshell, this old and lovely village is situated on a mountain and is filled with cafes, restaurants, stores, and street food.

Also, we ate lunch at one of the restaurants, which I will share in a different post. If ever you plan on visiting this area, I suggest that you go during Summer, so you wouldn’t have to walk around holding an umbrella and trying your best not to get wet as you go through the shops. Moreover, this place is packed with tourists and locals, so make sure not to bring bulky bags or things, so you can easily go around the place.

You can hire a driver or rent a vehicle going to the place, but if it’s your first time to visit it and if it wouldn’t be a hassle for you to walk, I would suggest that you experience commuting to the place too. Not only will it save you money, but it will also make the journey of discovering Taiwan and Jiufen more exciting.

 

 

 

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. :) )

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About Me

My name is Nicole Obligacion and I started this blog because I was inspired by Hebrews 10:24 and Hebrews 3:13. I love to eat, cook, bake, read the Bible, and encourage. :)

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