I woke up on the first day of 2019 with a heavy heart. This usually does not happen every new year. But, instead of being excited for the future, I felt more anxious because of the many worries and fears that slowly crept in my mind. What would my career look like this year? What huge hurdles will I be facing again? How will I survive this year, financially? Will I finally be intentional in pursuing my passions? Will my insecurities ever go away?
As I spent the first few minutes of my day with discouraging thoughts, I knew that I had to battle them with truths from God’s word. I sang these lyrics to myself: “Jesus, you’re my firm foundation. I know I can stand secure. Jesus, you’re my firm foundation. I put my hope in Your Holy word. I have a living Hope. I have a future. God has a plan for me — of this I’m sure, of this I’m sure!”.
In the quietness of my heart, I opened up my frustrations to the Lord and asked Him to search me and renew my mind. I spent the next 30 minutes immersing myself in His word, remembering His faithfulness throughout 2018, and trusting that He will continue to be faithful this year.
In my journal, I wrote on only one page that night (which can be seen in the photo below). Usually, I would find comfort after writing my concerns. But, I was encouraged to write down the verses that spoke to my heart and reflect on them instead. I praise God for the peace that He gives. I praise Him because He is with us always, both in the clear and in the unknown.
I still don’t know the answers to my questions and I will probably still be tempted to carry my worries with me. But by God’s grace, I will choose to let them go, trust Him, and say hello to the new day and new year that He has graciously placed in front of me.
We live in a condominium that allows dogs, which is perfect for our family because we love our Pomeranian and Schnauzer, Copper and Clue! However, taking care of dogs inside a condominium can be tiring too, especially since they need to be regularly walked outside so they can enjoy nature and do their business. On most days, I really do not mind walking them because I enjoy their company. But, there are just those tiring nights when I wish that they could just walk themselves without causing any trouble. This struggle usually gets triggered whenever it rains or the elevator in our condominium stops working… just like tonight.
Despite feeling so lazy and weak, of course, I still walked the dogs because of my love for them. Haha! I brought Clue down to the ground floor first and we walked around the garden. On our way back to the unit, I noticed how he struggled going up the wooden stairs. He didn’t struggle as much when we went up the other staircase made out of stone and cement. I guess he felt that the wooden one was more unstable.
It was cute, at first, because he was doing his best to stay still like a statue, while I was softly tugging at his leash and calling him up the stairs. But, after a few minutes, I wanted to rest already, so I attempted to lift his body one step at a time. Although, halfway through, I thought it would be better to teach him how to do it on his own. He carefully lifted one paw up, took one step, and then backed up immediately. He did this for a couple of times. Sometimes, taking two steps up and three to four steps backward. I was beside him the whole time. I even blocked the side of the stairs where it was overlooking the floor below, so that he wouldn’t be scared. But still, he kept on shaking and looking down.
“It’s okay, Clue! I’m here. You can do it. One step at a time!” “I know it looks scary, but don’t look down. Let’s go up, Clue!” This scenario went on for five minutes while I kept tapping on the wooden steps, to signal him to keep on going up. Finally, he made his way up and I told him he did a good job while his tail vigorously wagged. As soon as I entered our place, I wondered why Clue was so afraid of heights and the seemingly unstable staircase. Maybe he had a traumatic experience before which still scares him today. How I wish Clue understood that he didn’t have to be afraid because I was with him. I was and still am able to block the scary view, protect him from falling down the stairs, give him rubs every time he takes one step, and train him to learn climbing up on his own. Doesn’t he trust me?
Somehow, this moment reminded me of what it is like to also not trust in God, especially when I go through challenging, unwanted, and painful situations in life. I saw myself in Clue while he was taking steps forward and backward, while keeping his eyes on the scary height and distance below. As much as I didn’t want to admit it, I knew that it was one of the ways that God was using to humble me. I remembered a song that I listened to recently which encouraged me to be real before the Lord and to trust that His presence and grace in my life are more than enough for me. It has simple lyrics but it strikes a chord in my heart as I am reminded of the ff. verses about God being our powerful Emmanuel: Psalm 23:4, Isaiah 41:10, Psalm 139:7, and Matthew 28:20.
I pray that these verses and this song, “Why God” by Austin French, will encourage us to keep seeking and trusting in the Lord in whatever situation we are in. Yes, He may not always answer the Why’s that we have. But, we can rest in knowing that whatever He reveals to us is enough for His wonderful plans to be fulfilled in our lives… according to His will and for His glory alone.
“Give me a faith stronger than I have
I need to know when it hurts this bad
That You hold my heart when it breaks
And I’m not alone in this place
That’s why God I need You
Why God I run to Your arms
Over and over again
It’s why God I cling to Your love and hold on for dear life
And I find You are right by my side
Always right by my side
Even here in the why… God.”
My parents and I ate dinner two nights ago and my dad randomly shared an observation he had over the past few months. He told me and my mom that he noticed how God has been answering my prayer requests and heart’s desires lately. He mentioned that when I prayed for a dog more than 4 years ago, God provided thru a family friend and we had our first dog: a fluffy, golden brown 4-year old Pomeranian named Copper. Also, he remembered how I prayed for certain gadgets before and by God’s grace, He again provided those a few months ago. It was interesting and ironic because by the time God gave our family the things that I prayed for, I wasn’t thinking about them anymore. After praying about them, somehow, God helped me surrender those things to Him and focus on Him instead. I am grateful for His grace.
That random conversation with my parents was a timely encouragement for me because I’ve been praying about specific things lately. And somehow, I’ve felt like God wasn’t as “active” as He was in answering my prayers this time compared to my previous moments with Him. But, after talking to God that night, He reminded me of Kerrie Robert’s song “Seek Your Face” which talks about one’s desire to seek God (know who He is) and not focus on what He can give to us or what we ask from Him. It spoke to my heart because there would be times when I would feel unmotivated and discouraged to pray for specific things because of unanswered prayers or “delays”. However, by His grace, I am encouraged to see God for who He is in my life. He is my peace, my provider, and my Lord. Reminding myself of who He is helps me seek Him and His Word more, have faith in Him, and trust that He does want me to experience His best for me no matter what.
Despite the challenging moments that I have while I wait on the Lord, I really appreciate the fact that He uses those moments to help me get to know Him more. I remember commuting via MRT last week and while I was waiting for the next train to arrive (which took 20 minutes), God encouraged me to spend that time to talk to Him instead. Also, just this morning, I woke up at 3:30 am because of an intense dream that I had. It was about one of my prayer requests. I immediately got my journal and wrote to God. It was comforting to know that as I pray for and wait on God, I know that I can always count on Him to hear me out even in the wee hours of the morning. After praying, I closed the lights and went back to sleep with a hopeful heart. If it is God’s will and if He thinks it will be for the best, by His grace, He will provide for me. He will make a way.
The morning after the random conversation that I had with my parents, my sister and I walked our two dogs (Copper and Clue). While I was preparing their meals and fresh water, I remembered how we started training Clue to wait during their meal time. Clue, our 2-year old Schnauzer, was graciously given to us by a family friend as well. When we first had him, we noticed how quickly he eats his food. Before the food even touches his bowl, he would immediately eat the pellets, which was quite frustrating for us.
So, for the past months, we’ve been doing our best to train Him to wait whenever we put food in his bowl. Sometimes, he does wait. Sometimes, he tries his best to. Haha. But, I have noticed some improvement in him lately. Whenever we put food in his bowl, we call his name and say the word “Wait.” Every time we do this, he always quickly looks at his food first and then looks at our eyes while drooling. It’s funny, really. It’s like we play a staring contest every meal time. And whenever he does wait, he waits for our go signal (the word “Okay!”) before gobbling up his food.
Every time I give Clue a bowl of dog food, I am reminded of what I should do while I wait on the Lord. Clue continuously looks at his master while he drools and waits for his food. It just shows how Clue really desires to eat his food, but at the same time, knows that his master desires for him to learn how to wait too. Ever since Clue’s first day at home, the only thing he cared about during meal time was his precious bowl of dog food. But now, it’s encouraging to see him pause and take time to wait on his master before digging in.
God has been teaching me to wait on Him these past few weeks and although it has been a rollercoaster ride for me lately, I am grateful for the privilege of praying specifically, trusting completely, and waiting on Him who knows better than me.
“I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living. 14 Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.”
Whenever our family would watch Junior Masterchef Australia, our jaws would drop every time a contestant would make the assigned dish. It was amazing to see how, even at a young age, each ‘chefling’ would finish well and produce excellent food. When the kids were assigned to make pasta, Anna, one of the hosts, said “Nothing beats fresh, homemade pasta. Once you taste fresh pasta, there’s no turning back.” I was intrigued by her statement and this actually led me to get my own pasta machine. By God’s grace, I attempted to make my very own homemade pasta.
Making homemade pasta involves these activities: kneading, resting, stretching, cutting, and cooking. When I was preparing myself for the process, I was thinking: “Really? There’s no turning back? This looks more complicated than just cooking ready-made pasta. Hahaha.” Little did I know, God was preparing my heart for something more interesting than learning how to make homemade pasta dough.
KNEADING THE DOUGH
I pressed the dough down and squished it continuously (for 8 to 10 minutes) until it had a smooth texture. Kneading the dough produces gluten which gives elasticity to it – this helps the cook stretch the dough and eventually make it into pasta.
While kneading, it seemed like I was giving the dough a really hard time because of all the punches and presses that I did. And for some reason, this made me think about the moments in my life when I would experience painful, uncomfortable, and seemingly unbearable situations; those times when I’d just feel so defeated and discouraged because of the ‘punches and presses’ in my life.
However, God made me realize that the cook kneads the homemade pasta dough for a special purpose (to make pasta noodles). In the same way, God allows things to happen to us for a special purpose. When they happen, we may not always know why, but they certainly are opportunities for us to trust in God.
It says in James 1:2-4:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
LETTING THE DOUGH REST
I then sprinkled the dough with flour and covered it with cling wrap for about an hour (this prevents dryness and it allows the dough to rest). This is a crucial step because when you try to stretch dough which didn’t have enough time to rest, it will just shrink back – making it hard for the cook to get a stretched, thin dough.
In the same way, this step reminded me of how crucial it is to rest on who God is and not to worry about my painful and uncomfortable situations.
Just like the dough that isn’t rested, when my heart and mind are not rested in God, I can easily “shrink back” to panicking, worrying, complaining, and losing the joy and hope that I have in God.
“Find rest my soul in Christ alone, know His power in quietness and trust. When the oceans rise and thunders roar, I will soar with you above the storm. Father, you are king over the flood, I will be still and know you are God.” -Hillsong
“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” -Psalm 62:1-2
STRETCHING THE DOUGH
My younger brother, Gabo, helped me stretch the dough using the pasta machine. We placed ¼ of the whole dough into the machine and rolled it out 5 times (adjusting the machine each time to make the dough thinner).
It was amazing to see how a small piece of the homemade pasta dough could be stretched long and be used to make a lot of noodles. God encouraged me through this and reminded me that He is also able to use us and bring out the best in us, even during the times when we experience pain and constantly face uncertainties.
It says in Romans 8:28
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
There was also a time when a part of the rolled dough was sliding away and moving to the side of the machine while it was being rolled. This resulted in a crooked and uneven thin pasta dough. And although I had to exert extra effort, I still decided to take the messed up pasta dough, mold it and roll it out again using the machine. I did that because I knew it was worth it; I had a purpose for it.
Similarly, God showed me that even if I make mistakes or sometimes, am stubborn like the dough, He still would graciously pick me up, mold me, and stretch me to become the person that He wants me to be. This encourages me even more to constantly humble myself before God and seek Him in my life. By His grace, He works in our lives; He meets us where we are; and He uses what He has given us for His will and glory.
“…But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” -2 Corinthians 12:8-9
CUTTING AND COOKING
After making the dough thin enough, I then used the pasta machine to cut the pasta dough. After letting it dry for a few minutes, I cooked and served the noodles with tomato sauce and meatballs.
Looking back, I realized that in spite of the challenging tasks and discouragements, the cheflings in the Junior Masterchef Australia finished well; they tried their best to prepare the food; and they persevered until the end with the help of the gracious masterchefs who were by their side.
In the same way, whether or not we experience pain, uncertainties, and challenges in life; I’ve learned that we must choose to trust in God and follow Him even during times when we are being stretched by Him. We must also choose to give Him the best that we can wherever he places us (at home, in school, at work, etc.). Just like the masterchefs, I am reminded that our God is a gracious God and He is more than willing to help us finish well for His glory.
It’s really important to not give up ever, and I’m really glad that I did not give up. – Nick Lieurance (Junior Masterchef Australia Season 1 Top 8)
Hang in there, friend. Even though it’s tough, don’t you ever give up. Finish well by the grace of God. He loves us so much. :)
RECIPE for the SAUCE: Spaghetti and Meatballs by Ina Garten
RECIPE for the PASTA DOUGH: 3 eggs and 2 cups of all-purpose flour
Thanks to Kuya for helping me edit (hehe); Gabo for helping me make the dough (Gotta love brothers!); Mom for the ingredients :D; and of course, God, for Your grace, for being so awesome and encouraging. :)