Surrender precedes the beautiful.

Whenever February draws near, idle times would lead my mind to recalling scenes from romantic-comedy movies, Korean dramas, and viral proposal videos. And my brain has been wired to do that since the February 14 I got roses, teddy bears, and a necklace from boys in high school. Receiving those gifts only got my hopes up that there’d be something special for me every February. But since then, not a flower or any gift came. There would be chocolates from my mom or from officemates, but that doesn’t count. So my stubborn heart kept hoping, expecting a surprise, assuming there’d be someone, something, anything, for me. I would even speak “secret” prayers to God about what I wanted to receive. Specific prayers that even my closest friends will never hear of.

Even if I almost always end up with nothing, I was consistent in waiting for something special on Valentines. What if those boys from high school sends me something. Maybe this guy who used to court me will try pursuing me again. Maybes, what ifs, perhapses, nothing. No package was delivered to me. No message. No call. I’d get disappointed. Every single time.

In my disappointment and stubbornness, God spoke. He is in the business of making all things new. Just a few days before Valentines, something shifted in my heart. His Word reverberated in me. My unhealthy expectations ceased when I heard Him in Isaiah 55. All this time, my hope was in the temporal and the material. I was relying on objects to feel loved when I am the object of His love.

My weary was heart stilled. His ways are not my ways, His thoughts not my thoughts. I pray a prayer of surrender. I release my expectations. I declare His promise of sufficiency over my desires, and my emotions.

Days later, about midnight after February 14, His answer came. He answered my specific prayer in the most unexpected, beautiful way.

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God was really just waiting for me to give that desire up to Him. He was waiting for me to finally trust Him. He was waiting for me to realize that I didn’t need special gifts to know that I am worthy to be pursued. Because He already did. The cross is my proof of Jesus’s pursuit of my heart. He gave up heaven to be human, to suffer as we suffer, to go through whatever we’re going through, to die the death that was meant for me, for me. He listens to every cry, and hears every prayer. And He answers the ones that He knows you’re ready for. He answers in the way that will make you know Him more intimately.

His answer will be greater any movie plot twist or any viral love story post you’ll see on social media. His answer will surpass any of your daydreams. His answer for you will be for you, and His faithfulness will be written all over it.

His answer came through a bouquet from my little brother, Ron. I wasn’t expecting anything, and yet God knew what was really in my heart. You see, Ron has never been the type to show affection. He rejects my hugs. He rarely says “I love you,” I don’t remember receiving anything from him for my birthday. That night, I came home tired from work and the commute. He opened the door to hand the flowers to me, and I thought it was a joke.

“For you.” And I still couldn’t believe it. It suddenly became more than a gift to celebrate Valentines Day. The morning after, I saw it for what it really is—a love letter straight from my Heavenly Father. It was really God reminding me that He is faithful. By His grace, restoration is possible, healing is at hand, transformation is happening. He can and He will use the unlikeliest of people to surprise you, to make you feel His love.

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Me after crying on Mommy’s shoulder the next morning. My expectations melting away, my gratitude overflowing. 

Great is His faithfulness. Trust Him. Surrender.

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If.

“His speaking is His doing.” (Art Azurdia)

He said He’d do it, didn’t He?

He didn’t just speak of it. He promised it. And the bible is filled with reminders that He is a promise-keeping God.

If He said it and if He promised it, it’s a sure thing.

Simple, right? Oh, but, oh how I falter when things started to make a turn for the worst. Simple, but not always easy. I wanted the promise and I wanted it now as if my life depended on it. I started twisting God’s arm. And If He didn’t give it, I’m done. I’m done with church. I’m done with ministry. I’m done with Him.

You see, when I first heard the promise, I was so excited. I was looking forward to seeing it happen. I know He’ll do it, and I thought maybe He’ll do it sooner, rather than later. So when it didn’t come at my appointed time, my initial response of awe and anticipation started evaporating.

Soon, a cloud formed over my soul. I let disappointment take root in my heart which eventually surfaced as impatience and unbelief. My vision of who I am and whose I am got clouded. I started losing hope. The promise is not going to happen. At least, not in my lifetime.. so why do I need to be here? Why should I even bother? Maybe disappearing would be a better option?

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See how everything escalated quickly? When things didn’t look like what I wanted it to look like, I prayed hard. I went to church.  I lead small groups. I cried almost every time. God reminded me through songs. God reminded me of the Cross. Yet despite all of that my heart’s still heavy with the weight of waiting for His promise.

I didn’t declare the words He spoke. I didn’t own the promises He spoke of. Yes, I heard it but instead of meditating on it and applying it in my life, I let myself be swallowed by a thick cloud that is depression.

I sank deeper. It became darker. I doubted more, I lost faith, I hurt the people I love. My work got affected. I lost sleep, anxious. I got overwhelmed the point that leaving everything behind seemed like the only solution.

If His promises aren’t true. If He isn’t really moving. If He doesn’t love me.
If He’s not. If He won’t…

If.

That if made all the difference.

Because He is, and He will. I may have lost a lot of things during that dark time. But in the losing, He became my gain. He used so many people to pull me away from darkness, back into His presence. My own family started praying for me when I was usually the one doing it for them. Women from church prayed for me and ministered to me. Through them, He proved that He is still God, He is still faithful, and He will keep extending grace. He will, He will. He. Will.

He will keep loving us.
Even if we sin, even if we make mistakes.
Even if we’re sad, even if we stray.

He is working. He will fulfill it at the right time. His appointed time, not yours, not mine.

The next ifs are on us. On you. On me.
If I will believe, if I will trust.
If I will yield, and if I will obey.

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He has given us the grace to turn the what ifs into surrender, the if onlys into obedience. And if ever you feel like you’re sinking into the dark pit of depression and anxiety, let me remind you that His grace is an ocean, that you, too, can sink deep into. Remember the cross. Remember the cross where He bought you. Remember the folded linen inside an empty grave. Remember resurrection. Remember Jesus who gave His life for me and you.

Because if it wasn’t for Him, I wouldn’t be writing this post to encourage you.

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What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against
us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he
not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:31-32)

2017: from knowing to trusting.

I love how transitions (esp. the week before we usher in a new year) gets us into a time of reflection. My chance to look back came earlier though. Just a few weeks ago, when we had our leadership group’s year-end dinner wherein our coach Ayu had us recall highlights throughout the year. As we started looking back, some months immediately had its share of memorable moments, while some seemed as if there’s nothing much to talk about. (Thank God for social media and smartphones that allow us to document what happens in our lives, in real time!)

We look back not to relive what’s past, but to take a step back and see how much we’ve grown, how God shows up whether it’s up in the hills or through the darkest of valleys. He was there, in the heartbreaking and in the breakthroughs. He is here, in the now, wherever you are, whatever season you’re in. And He will be with us, even to the end of the age.

2017 has been a full year. Full of twists and turns, highs and lows, tears and laughter (sometimes both in a minute), nights of crying for answers, and mornings filled with so much light and gratitude. There were weeks brimming with workload, yet grace overflowed too. Some weekends were spent restless, and other weekdays had more stillness. All  those lead to more—more memories to cherish and to forget, more writings in my journal, more tears, more loss, more gain.

But what I’m most grateful for for 2017 is His presence in my life. This is the year I learned to value His presence and our relationship above everything else.

I remember starting the year with our church‘s annual corporate prayer and fasting. We had our prayer meetings last January and July—we took the time to consecrate ourselves, our family, and our ministries to know God deeper.

Nothing short of amazing how I began 2017 wanting to know Him more, but He’s ending it with an invitation to give Him my full trust.

To trust the God who gave so much for us in the person of His Son Jesus.

To trust Jesus—the Majestic King who humbled Himself, became man, lived the life we should’ve lived and died the death we should’ve died.

To know that He didn’t stay in the manger, He grew up to do what only He could do on that cross.

To believe that death has no hold when the tomb was found empty three days later.

To trust that though He ascended to heaven, we can still walk in His fullness, and Help is here in the Holy Spirit.

To trust Him enough to stay still in the midst of storms that uncertainty brings. To trust and still keep your faith despite all the doubts. To trust Him with the impossible.

To trust that He is still God, and He is still good.

I know trusting isn’t and will never be easy, but let me encourage you that with Him—it is and will always be worth it.

It has been testified somewhere,

“What is man, that you are mindful of him,
    or the son of man, that you care for him?
 You made him for a little while lower than the angels;
    you have crowned him with glory and honor,
     putting everything in subjection under his feet.”

Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him.

Hebrews 2:6-8 (ESV)

 

WIP: Woman in Process

Process.

Phases, stages, levels, ideation to execution, revisions to approval. These are just some of the things that come to mind when I hear that word.

Whether you’re a student, a working professional, or someone about to start something new —we are going through it.

And I hated it. I dreaded process. I wanted to get to the destination without the journey—the working and saving for the ticket, the packing and going on the road or plane, just to spend hours waiting. And who likes waiting? I want what I want, and I wanted it right then and there. I didn’t want to go through steps, detours or stopovers. I wanted to just teleport—the superpower that I wished wasn’t just fictional.

I wanted promotion without taking on new responsibilities. I believed that I’ve worked hard enough, that I’ve done everything I can to get recognition I deserved.

Along that road of self-sufficiency and striving to get to where I wanted to be, I realized that my ego was overtaking. I was getting ahead of God in my own strength. I was rushing “requirements” so I can receive what He promised. I took on more than I can handle—spreading myself thin in the process. I was working so hard to deserve what He was freely giving. I performed, trying to do what He already said He’ll do.

I was struggling to fight a battle He’s already won. 

And that’s how His process works. I had to struggle. I had to try so hard just to fail and realize His grace is still greater. My heart needed to be broken, and be humbled to stillness. I had to strive on my own before I can discover that He didn’t let me go through this alone. I needed to go through exhaustion, trying to earn His salvation, to truly know that He has given His all for me in Jesus. I had to hit rock bottom so I can finally look up and see Him looking at me with delight.

The parts I didn’t like the most ended up being the most important in the process—His process of molding me into the woman I needed to become.

Whatever season, whether we’re thriving or flourishing, may we always see that our God is involved in the process. Trust Him.

For I, the Lord your God,
    hold your right hand;
it is I who say to you, “Fear not,
    I am the one who helps you.”

(Isaiah 41:13)

 

v i s i o n

Back in college, my answer to “what’s your biggest fear” was blurred vision. At first, I was just being literal about it, because I valued my 20-20 eyesight. And my passion for art and nature fed the desire to always see everything clearly.

Fast forward to today, I still fear having blurred vision. But this time, it’s having a blurred vision of the future.

You see, I’ve never been the type to think about the future. I’ve never had a confident answer for the “where do you see yourself 5, 10, 20 years from now” questions. I enjoy living in the moment. But God is just really stirring my heart to believe for a bigger vision for my life.

And it’s so hard. It’s so hard to look beyond the horizon when you’ve been so content with what’s in front of you, with what’s always been “there.”

It’s also uncomfortable. It goes against everything we’re used to. But He is calling. He is calling us to go beyond what we see. To trust Him in the uncertainty, in the vastness of what’s before us. It’s an open invitation. But are we going to take that step of trust, or are we going to settle?

Whether that’s a long-time childhood dream or a goal you’re just now considering, I want to encourage you to pray about it. Ask God. He is the God of the impossible (Mark 10:27). Don’t limit the God who already gave His only Son to die for our sins so we can live in freedom. Don’t underestimate our Father who’s willing to forgive us and redeem us despite our shortcomings, so we can spend eternity with Him. He is not intimidated by our prayers.

Ask yourself, too. What do you really want to pursue? Where is He calling you? What vision has He been building up in your heart? ASK. Ask, seek, knock. (Matthew 7:7)

But we don’t stop at asking. We need to get out of the boat and walk with Him on water (Read Matthew 14:28-33). When we fix our eyes on the One who has gone ahead of us, we’ll look at the future as beautiful as it is uncertain.

And the best is always, always yet to come.

s p a c e

I’ve been trying to redesign my room since I watched a documentary on minimalism. I just finished reading a book about tidying, and I even enrolled in a basic interior styling class. This has been going on for a few months now. All of them pointing to a craving for a space where I can grow, to a place where I can breathe and move freely. A room where I can be myself, and keep only the things that spark joy in my heart. Don’t we all want a space like that?

Space
Things in my room that spark joy

Don’t you want a space where we feel at peace—where you can truly rest? But can we really just work our way to create that? Do I need to hire or to be an interior designer? Do I need a lot of money so I can buy the nicest most minimalist furniture or organizers for my room?

Or maybe…

I should start with the heart. If our hearts were a room, what would it look like? Every day, I need to check if I’m keeping any unnecessary clutter. Are there envious thoughts and feelings of unworthiness piling up in the closet? Have I hidden scraps of unhealthy habits and shameful memories in a box labelled “positive-thinking”? Maybe there’s still a stash of bad temper gathering dust on the shelf?

Our hearts are the hardest working muscle in our body. And yet we won’t give it the space it needs to grow. We won’t give ourselves the time to really release what needs to be released. We let pride build a wall. We start to lock people out so that we’ll save ourselves from the discomfort of vulnerability.

We don’t see the need of opening it up to Someone who can make it new. But that’s what the Lord our God wants for us. He wants to make us new. He’s shown how much He means that through His Son, Jesus—the One whose blood makes us white as snow. He wants our hearts to be cleaned out so that His wonderful grace can make its way in. There’s a space in our hearts that only He can fill.

But will you let Him in?

Let’s pray: Lord, I’m a mess. My heart is filled with junk. I admit that I can’t do everything by myself. I’m sorry for trying to do it all on my own. I repent of my sins, my unbelief and distrust towards You. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Clean house, my Lord. Clear out the unnecessary, so I can receive what You’ve been wanting to give. I’m making room for you this time.

In Jesus’ name, amen.

 

h u m i l i t y

This is not for you.

This is the dedication page in a novel I was reading. Even after I turned the pages, the line was still stuck in my head. It started impressing something in my heart.

this is not for you

 

This is not for you.

Each of us will have a different reaction to this line. And mine was refusal. I refuse to believe that this is not for me. I’ve claimed it. I’ve already prayed and believed for it. I wanted it to be for me. For me to start. Mine to fight. For me to finish. I was defiant. I wanted it to be for me, by me, and through me.

This is not for you.

This is the promise. This is for me. The achiever in me is restless. I can’t just watch and do nothing. I needed to take action. After all, faith without action is dead, right?

Still, He says, this is not for you.

Those five words stung like rejection, like the promise isn’t going to come anymore. Five words piercing through my heart that longs for control.

This is not for you.

I keep asking God. Why should I just stand here and wait? Why won’t He let me do anything about the promises He gave?

Then He calms my stubborn heart and tells me,

This is not for you. You only need to be still. Let Me fight this for you. Let Me complete what I started in you. This is not for you. This is for my glory. This is so that others will see how I write stories out of lives yielded to Me.

This is not for you.

5 words God used to humble me, to quiet my anxiety, to lead me to trust Him more.

But this doesn’t mean I won’t do anything at all. I will keep praying, I will keep serving, I will keep trusting. I put my hope not on what I will do, but on what He said He’ll do.

I remember what my dear friend and leader, Ayu told us during our Victory group:

God is glorified when we trust Him with the impossible.

See Hebrews 10:23

This is not for you. 

Jesus has already won it for you.

#NotesToSelf

s h e e t  m a s k s

The first time I tried sheet masks was when my friend Airah gave me some for my birthday (June) last year (2016). I only got to try it two months after I received it which resulted to this snap:


It’s really the funnest part of any beauty routine. After this first try, I would always go to the face/beauty section at department stores and pharmacies to check out the masks they have. Every time we go to malls, I would visit The Face Shop or Nature Republic to make sure I always have stock at home. You can say that I got “lulong” 😂 I even tried the animal masks I found at Watsons. (See snap below)

Haha! See what I did there?? After all that trial and (some) error, sheet masks have become a staple in my skincare. It has also become therapeutic for me, and you can also see how much fun I’m making out of doing it. But what are they really for?

SokoGlam shares that sheet masks are the soul of Korean skin care. Infused with concentrated essence, sheet masks adhere to your skin to target various skin concerns—from dryness to pigmentation, you name it, there’s a sheet mask for you.

So here, I’ll be sharing some of the ones I’ve tried (so far).

The Face Shop


What I love most about The Face Shop is they have buy-five-take-five promos (making it at PhP30 per sheet) that let me try every variant that I think is relevant for my beauty routine goals. My favorite from their Real Nature line is the Mung Bean one. The first time I tried it really felt refreshing and there’s a cool sensation on my skin that feels like the essence is really being absorbed. Another fave is Kelp. After using it, it felt as if I just washed my face in a cool spring. The Rice and Acai Berry are the ones I didn’t like as much, mostly because of the scent and the hot sensation when I use them.

Sephora

Whenever we go out of the country, I also check out the beauty stores there to see what masks they have. I got this one from our Singapore trip last April.


I love anything that I can use as a container for my “kuringkudings” so I was really excited when I saw this 16SGD 5-pc. mask set. I felt that my face was extra oily at that time, so I chose this green tea mattifying variant. The packaging is so cute! I think its curved shape really helps concentrate the essence on the mask. Their sheet has a texture that’s supposed to lock in more of the essence but it’s a bit rougher than the usual sheet mask texture. It also has a very perfume-y scent that I’m not a big fan of.

Etude House


Their sheet is the thinnest out of all the brands I’ve tried and I love it!! It’s so light, true to its name—Air Therapy Air Mask! I’ve only tried one variant (the lemon for its brightening effect) but I will definitely go back for the others. It’s also just PhP78!

Dr. Jart+


This one is sooooo thick! It’s like I put on a shirt for my face, but it felt surprisingly more relaxing. And the essence delivered visible results! I tried it on while I had a big pimple on my cheek, the next day it looked smaller and with less redness. This one is on the pricier side though. I bought this in a beauty retailer in Hong Kong for 165HKD.

Tip

You know how there’s so much excess essence in every pack? You can still use that for your next routine! Just take all the essence out of the pack, put it on a zip-lock bag, take a few cotton pads, then seal it in. You can even use the excess to moisturize your neck or heels!

At the end of the day…

Important P.S. Taking care of yourself isn’t necessarily being vain or self-centered. God has blessed you with beauty, all your quirks and flaws included. So as good stewards, we must cultivate what He gave so that in the end we can bring back the glory that belongs to Him. Yes, skincare routines are fun, but taking care of what’s within, what’s in your heart is still more important. May God’s beauty always, always shine brighter than your dewy, glowing skin.

L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.

m i n i m a l i s m

I just finished watching a documentary by Matt D’Avella, Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Millburn. It’s about the non-stop consumption and materialism in western societies. We all want more, more, and more. We try to fill our lives with things, losing meaning and purpose along the way. It also magnified the need to clean my room and get rid of my hoarding tendencies. Like really clean it. Get rid of every thing that I’m not using anymore, anything that I’m never going to use. You see, I tend to hold on to a lot of stuff. I’m the type who keeps receipts and bus tickets thinking that I’ll make a collage out of it one day. I’m the kind of person who goes to an art store and thinks “hey, I’d like to do a rubbercut print one day, let me just buy everything I need for that right now.” Only to end up with those materials dusty on my shelf, because that one day never came.

I can also to be very sentimental. That’s why a lot of my drawings I made when I was young are still with me—kept in a bag under my bed. I still have my college plates, even the ones from group work. The documentary—the concept of minimalism is really inspiring a lot of people to move towards a simpler life. A life where you don’t need 5 different types of anything with a different type. I want to move towards that kind of life. I want to stick to the essentials.

I know this won’t be an easy journey. But I really really want to do this. I’ve been sorting all the papers on my shelf and I’ve been going through my stuff on and off for months now. Taking it slow and steady, because it really takes discipline and a lot of heart. A lot of heart to really let go and make space for new things.

I’m reminded of this verse from Isaiah 43:18,

Remember not the former things,
    nor consider the things of old.

But it’s the verse after that really encourages me,

Behold, I am doing a new thing;
    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
    and rivers in the desert.

God is doing a new thing! He is doing a new thing. But where’s our focus? What are we still carrying that’s meant to be forgotten? This process has crossed over from being about getting rid of stuff in my room to uprooting things in my heart. What thoughts am I keeping? What habits should be thrown out? Apart from the shelves and corners of my room, my heart and mind needs a lot of decluttering too. It’s time to clear out, make space for a fresh start.

Don’t we all need that every now and then? I’m so excited for the new things that will spring up, the new things that are springing up. I hope you are too.

But first, it’s time to forget the former. It’s time to stick to what’s who’s essential—God.

 

 

 

g r a n u l a r i t y #2

Sharing my photo set from an Independence Day spent traversing seas and chilling by the beach. Shot using Yashica FX-3 with an expired Superia X-tra 400.

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Daddy and Mommy
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A boat passing by

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Selfeet
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April

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This shot reminds me of the Philippine flag
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This boy was our guide at Mt. Gulugod Baby
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This is unfortunately as far as I can go. After I threw up on the trail, we had to go back down.
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This is what greeted us after a failed attempt at climbing the mountain.
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One last shot before we go back to the city.

 

As we celebrate this year’s Independence anniversary, let’s take the time to believe and pray that God will move mightily in our nation. May He do this through leaders, through ordinary people, and through me and you.

Maligayang araw ng kalayaan, mga kababayan!

Let’s also remember to be grateful that we live in a country get to worship Him freely. In other places, a mere mention of the name of Jesus can get you imprisoned or killed. May we never take this freedom for granted. Lift up a prayer for brothers and sisters who are being persecuted because of their faith in God.

Dadating din ang inyong kalayaan.

 

n e w

It’s been months since I last drew something that’s not work-related. I’m grateful to be sharing this artwork and the story behind it. It was a few nights ago… Right before I was about to sleep, I had a moment of “you know what, I don’t care if it’s already 1am, I miss drawing so I’m just going to draw to my heart’s content.”  It was a spur-of-the-moment grab-my-sketchpad-and-just-draw kinda thing.

artbreak0530

This was inspired by what my friend Bianca shared last Monday in her Victory group. This is the only line I wrote in my journal as she was preaching. Everything she shared felt so personal for me and my current situation. I thank God for the Word He spoke through her. It overflowed into an artwork and I plan on sharing her message to other women as well.

What she shared was that sometimes, we get stuck and feel that nothing’s happening in our lives because we’re so fixated on a system instead of focusing on the Source. We’re so busy waiting for a series of events to play out that we miss what God is currently doing in us and around us. We become too focused on what we want to happen, instead of focusing on Him. We forget that every good thing we have is a gift from heaven (James 1:17). Our hearts can be so set on getting promoted at work or in the ministry. We forget that real promotion comes from the One who gives us the ability to produce wealth.

I was looking at the wrong direction. I was trying to force my way into a door that only He will open. I realized then that my heart had to turn from the “system” and go back to the One who holds all things together. After all, this isn’t about what I can do for Him or what He can do for me. This is about Him—His character, His love, His glory.  Draw near to The Source and you will just witness systems fall in to place.

Put your hope in Him who makes a way in the sea, a path through mighty waters. The Lord our God who said:

“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.”

(Isaiah 43:18-19, NIV)

artbreak0531

w a v e s

Waves will come.

And come.

And come.

Storms will come.

And come. 

And come.

They come 

In different forms.

It splashes at your feet.

It swallows you whole.

It’s a breeze then a hurricane 

A trickle then a flood

Get a compass

Brave the waves

Sail the open sea

But anchor your soul.

Seek a captain you can trust.  

Let Jesus steer you through.

The waves will come 

Waves of disappointment, anxiety, and grief

The storms will come

Storms of heartbreak, insecurity, and unbelief

But you’re still 

You’re still

In an ocean of grace. 

Old artwork. New meaning.