Embracing Seasons

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Enjoy whatever season you’re in.

Winter, spring, summer and fall. Four distinct seasons that inevitably come. Whether we want it or not, one will go through it for sure. There is no way for someone not to experience them all – except for those who live in a tropical region. It’s natural and is expected. One must recognize that fact and must live with it. One should prepare for each season.

In Ecclesiastes 3, the Bible reminds us that “To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” Same as the four seasons, each person has his own fair share of “life seasons”. We rejoice and we grieve. We thrive and we fail too. There are moments we feel being in our best and sometimes otherwise. These are all usual. Normal. Typical. Common. These are all part of a natural thing that we should go through as we mature. It could be heartbreaking at times but it will never be long-lasting. It’s just a phase.

The past two months, admittedly, have been so deterring that it consumed me mentally and emotionally. It was so tough that I didn’t even notice how two months slipped away so swiftly. When one is broken, they say that time can only heal. Apparently, I learned that time is not the only element that will make someone overcome brokenness. It’s difficult to operate without joy. Staying on that state for so long will only drag you down even more. Hurting people hurt people. I was dreadfully tired of crying out all my emotions. How do I overcome?

Once again, I was reminded about God’s amazing grace that it can reach us even at the lowest point of our lives, career, relationships etc. God reminded me that this is merely a season that I should go through and learn from. It’s a natural part of being human. I also learned that it’s not only time that can heal one’s pain. It must be combined with self-acceptance, self-forgiveness and God’s grace. When we accept, and embrace our brokenness, His grace flows through even more, changing us from within over time. And with all that happened in the last two months, I can’t thank God enough for teaching me to be strong, to be still and to patiently wait for Him as He fixes me. It was just a season but, indeed, full of learnings. The beauty of being broken is that the more I experienced undoubtedly how God’s love embraces despite my flaws and hurts.

Today, I know that I am getting better – not yet totally but getting there. I am excited for the next season. Whichever it would be, I know that it’s the same God who will walk with me and guide me all the way. Truly, He makes everything beautiful in its time.

“Help Me Find It”

By: Sidewalk Prophets

I don’t know where to go from here

It all used to seem so clear

I’m finding I can’t do this on my own

I don’t know where to go from here

As long as I know that You are near

I’m done fighting

I’m finally letting go

I will trust in You

You’ve never failed before

I will trust in You

If there’s a road I should walk

Help me find it

If I need to be still

Give me peace for the moment

Whatever Your will

Whatever Your will

Can you help me find it

Can you help me find it

I’m giving You fear and You give faith

I giving you doubt

You give me grace

For every step I’ve never been alone

Even when it hurts, You’ll have Your way

Even in the valley I will say

With every breath

You’ve never let me go

I will wait for You

You’ve never failed before

I will wait for You

I lift my empty hands (come fill me up again)

Have Your way my King (I give my all to You)

I lift my eyes again (Was blind but now I see)

‘Cause You are all I need

 

Pleasure in Gaining and Losing

Whenever I want to eat lunch or dinner in a fancy restaurant that I haven’t tried before, I always do research about that particular restaurant first. I ask recommendations from my friends and I google for customer reviews. The first thing I research about a restaurant, of course, is the taste of the food they serve. Second, is whether they give generous servings or not. Lastly, I check on the price. I always check the price last because it should be based on my first two criteria. If they serve delicious and mouth-watering cuisines with generous servings to satisfy the customers, it’s just appropriate to pay a price.

What comes into your mind whenever you hear or read the words generous and generosity? Some may think about kindness, goodness, sharing or giving in abundance. Others may also think about receiving something that is beneficial. More often than not, the words “generous” and “generosity” are associated with the acts of giving and receiving. When we give generously to others, we give something that would benefit them. One thing I’ve learned about generous giving is that it is not measured by the absolute amount, worth or count of something you gave. Generous giving is measured on how much you can give based on your capacity.

When I think about generous giving, I always remember God. I always remember his attribute of being a provider who gives generously for the needs of His beloved children. He gives according to what we need and most of the time, more than what we asked for. He is never early and never late in providing them – may it be our financial needs, emotional needs, physical needs, etc. He always gives something that would be beneficial for His children in the long run. His capacity? It’s infinite. We always see God’s generosity in the perspective of receiving something from the Lord. But what if God has taken away something precious from us? What if He took away something we really treasure in our hearts – that something we really prayed for? Do we still see God’s “generous giving” whenever He takes away?

As humans, by nature, we hurt when something we really treasure has been taken away from us. It could be our ambitions, career, business, education, talent, or etc. It is painful, indeed. It is normal to be hurting and there’s nothing wrong with it. But along with the hurting, we should always remind ourselves of God’s goodness, generosity and capacity. It’s a cliché that when God has taken away something, He replaces it with something better. It is because “…all things work together for good for those who love the Lord.” Romans 8:28.  We can highlight God’s generous giving in here because although He has taken away, it is still for the purpose of giving to us – something new, something better and something more beneficial for us that would glorify Him more. We cannot limit God’s generosity by receiving only the good things and good happenings in life because even in times of loss, God is still generously giving. In situations like this, I really admire Job’s attitude. He got devastated and lost everything he has, even his family, yet he recognized God’s sovereignty over all things:

“We bring nothing at birth; we take nothing with us at death.The Lord alone gives and takes. Praise the name of the Lord!” Job 1:21 

Just like the restaurants, they satisfy their customers when they give generous servings. God always generously gives – yes, even when He takes away – and that will surely satisfy us because He loves us. Our response? Turn it all back to God in praise.

Experience Paradise in El Nido

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Excited for the island hopping!

Seeing the nature at its finest is one of the many reasons why I am an outdoor person. Moving away from the city life for a while in order to experience what nature has to offer relieves so much stress and puts me back in perspective and focus. No wonder that it was so easy for me to decide to take a short vacation to El Nido, Palawan when I had the opportunity.

Most people have this misconception that taking a vacation in El Nido is expensive. Apparently, that’s not what we experienced when we had our trip to El Nido last March 16-19, 2013. Believe it or not, our stay in El Nido for 4 days and 3 nights is only as expensive as that 3-day-2 night vacation in Boracay. If you are a beach lover and a party animal, go to Boracay. But if you are this type of person who loves having a peaceful getaway and wants to have that better encounter with nature, go to El Nido, Palawan.

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Liselle, my girlfriend, enjoyed the VIP experience in Daytripper Palawan.

El Nido (EN) is a 6-hour land trip away from Puerto Prinsesa (PP). This is the reason why it is advisable to have a 4-day-3-night vacation in El Nido so you can enjoy the place at your own pace without being hurried due to time constraints. Upon arriving at PP, we were fetched by Daytripper Palawan, a transport business that took us to El Nido from the airport. Among all the transport groups available in Palawan, only Daytripper Palawan promotes convenient 6-hour trip from PP to EN and back. Other transport businesses in Palawan maximize the spaces of their vans at the expense of the convenience of their passengers. For example, a 10-seater van is used to transport 12-14 people. Imagine, there’s not much legroom anymore and space to place your luggage. We really had a great deal when we booked to Daytripper Palawan. The entire trip was very comfortable even in that 2-hour rough road along the way to El Nido We arrived in El Nido stress-free as we were all able to sleep well during the entire trip. There’s enough legroom in the van so one can move freely while sitting, enough space to place the luggage, the air-con is functioning well and lastly, the drivers (they call it Captain in Daytripper) are friendly and accommodating. We felt like we are VIPs when we’re riding Daytipper Palawan. (By the way, if you’re visiting EN soon, you may book to Daytripper Palawan at http://www.daytripperpalawan.com/. It’s very easy to navigate in their site.).

Tranquility in paradise.

Tranquility in paradise.

We stayed at Marina Garden Resort in EN located at the beachfront (http://www.mgelnido.com/). We were twelve in the group and we rented out three (3) standard rooms. The resort was very accommodating. Imagine, we reserved the room on the 1st week of January and they did not demand for any down payment or deposit. Very trusting, huh? They serve breakfast which is included in their accommodation fees. Room size is just enough for 4 people. And for the comfort room, which is usually the deciding factor for some travellers in choosing their accommodation, Marina Garden Resort has clean restrooms. By the way, there is no electricity in EN from 6am to 2pm. You don’t have to mind it, as you will be doing island hopping anyway.

I had the best island hopping experience in EN. As much as I don’t want to overemphasize it, but it was the best and the most unforgettable island hopping experience I had. The experience was way better than what I had in Puerto Galera and even

Shrimps and roasted pork

Shrimps and roasted pork

Boracay. In EN, there are only 4 tours to choose from: Tour A, Tour B, Tour C and Tour D wherein each will consume a whole day (9am to 5pm). We got the best tour, according to the people’s review: Tour A and C, which we did for two consecutive whole days. There is a standard rate implemented across EN which is really a good thing for tourists as they will not be victimized by selfish opportunists (which I think do not exist in EN). Tour businesses in EN will just compete through the service they can offer to the tourists. For us, we got Ric Sons Tour which is just a few establishments away from Marina Garden Resort. The tour guides were very affable and conversant about EN. How about their service? Superb. Who says you cannot have a semi-fine dining experience at the islands with all those fresh fruits and seafoods? All tour services in EN provide lunch during the tour, but whenever we’re having our lunch at the island, it’s only our group who has the dining table set up with a nice presentation and generous amount of food. For other tourist groups, they just have to sit down on the sand and find a comfy place which is a bit distant from where their food is set. I think I was able to get my point across: Choose Ric Son Tour when you go to EN if you want to experience excellent tour service.

Small lagoon. :)

Small lagoon. 🙂

So how are the islands of EN and the coral reef? Exquisite. Picturesque. Lovely. Striking. Dazzling. Spectacular. Amazing. If you are not a fan of island hopping, try doing it in EN and it will change your mindset about island hopping. It has been two weeks already since we visited the islands of EN and until now I still have the hang-over which I never experienced when I went to Boracay and Puerto Galera. The coral reef I’ve seen during our island hopping is, by far, the closest resemblance of those being shown in National Geographic Channel. No exaggeration here. Filipinos are missing a lot while foreigners keep on coming to the Philippines to experience EN. We went to places like secret lagoon, secret beach, hidden lagoon, hidden beach etc. It was a very fantastic experience to see them all first hand and to swim in them. Perfect for swimming, for photoshoots, and for just relaxing. The islands, the water, the coral reef, the colourful creatures below and the water are very enticing. Oh, did I mention water twice? It’s really that enticing. 🙂 If you think that a whole day is too long for island hopping, think again when you go to EN. Who cares about having sunburn? As what Dory of Finding Nemo said, “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming swimming swimming…” 🙂 After the two-day

"Just keep swimming..." - Dory, Finding Nemo

“Just keep swimming…” – Dory, Finding Nemo

island hopping, one thought that was conceived in my mind: “Definitely, I’m coming back.” After seeing everything during the island hopping, I can’t help but utter praises to God who created all those beautiful creations I’ve seen. It’s such a beautiful paradise.

Lastly, how can I forget our very satisfying dinner at Trattoria Altrove and Cadlao Beach Resort. Trattoria Altrove serves brickoven-cooked pizzas which are very unique in taste and flavours. Cadlao Beach Resort serves the best-tasting Seafood Curry Platter. The serving is very generous. We ordered two platters which they say good for 8 people, but it’s actually good for 12. Trattoria Altrove and Cadlao Beach Resort should be included in the itinerary for dinner when visiting EN.

I'm going back to this place.

I’m going back to this place.

If I’m going to rate our El Nido trip with 5 being the highest and 1 being the lowest, I’m going to rate it 100. Expectations were greatly exceeded. It’s definitely a place to go to in the Philippines. A paradise, indeed.

Look Beyond

medium_5574501064Last year has ended in such a wonderful way. Several happenings made me grow as a person, as a man and as a Christian. As the new year started, my heart has never been so excited to discover what the Lord has in store for me for this year. All I know that He is always good and whatever I have experienced in the past, He’ll do better in the future. Exciting, isn’t it?

During the first week of this year, I embraced the new beginning in full knowledge that it’s going to be a tough year, particularly because of work. Being in the sales industry is really nerve-wracking as it will pressure and push you on every side, everyday. But, as early as the beginning of the year, God has taught me to look beyond what can be easily seen. He taught me to look beyond all the struggles that I will be facing, being reminded that He will be my faithful companion every step of the way.

High sales targets and plans & programs not yet concrete are adding up the pressure. Just this afternoon, I had experienced the worst feeling ever in my entire stint in the sales industry. It’s crunchtime. As the month is about to end, sales target has to be attained. Everyone in the office is going nuts. Stress everywhere. You can feel it. People talk about frustrations and the should-have-been’s and the could-have-been’s. The negative environment makes the situation heavy. Having felt this I while ago, I tried to separate myself from the situation and observe it from afar. While doing so, I was reminded about the encouragement God has told me at the beginning of this year:

“We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken… So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us.” 1 Corinthians 4:8-9, 16-17

There is nothing like the feeling of getting assured of God’s presence to be with me in everything I do. The verse teaches and reminds me that my journey for this year (and in the next years to come) is not going to be and will never be easy. I have to face it with enough courage coming from the grace of God.

I’m sure that what I felt a while ago in the office is just the beginning of the many struggles at work, but I am ready to face them because God’s presence will be with me. My only prayer is for the Lord to give my heart an overflowing joy despite of everything that could happen.

Closing 2012

It feels so wonderful looking back and recalling the past whenever we start on to something new. As I reminisce on the things that happened to me for 2012, praises and thanksgiving overflow from my heart for Him who caused everything to happen at the right time. Indeed, He has made everything beautiful in its time and all the things that He has done are good. There is nothing I can do to repay Him equally for all His goodness. I cannot out give God. He never stops blessing, forgiving and loving.  All I can do is to use my life as a channel of praises and thanksgivings to give Him back all the glory for all that He has done. He has been with me in every single day of 2012. Let me enumerate some of the blessings that the Lord showered on me last year:

1. Employment Regularization

It is during the first month of 2012 that I got the official memo about my regularization in Petron thru Mr. Rey Yu, our general manager. This is not the first time that I experienced getting regularized at work, but the feeling that I had the moment it was officially released felt like it was the first time. After all the struggles I’ve gone through in work: work-related things, peer pressure and adjustment to the culture of Petron, I’m still standing because of God’s grace.

2. 2nd Anniversary with Liselle

It is during the second month of 2012 that Liselle and I celebrated our 2nd year anniversary. Anniversaries are manifestation of God’s faithfulness and goodness. We may not be a perfect couple as we are also struggling with a lot of things, but we have a perfect and a loving God at the center of relationship. It is through our relationship that we both have gained a better understanding about God’s unconditional love for us, making us grow deeper in faith and in love with our Father. The more we grow in the Lord through our relationship, the more vibrant our relationship becomes. I’m so blessed with a very beautiful, loving, supportive and encouraging partner.

3. Passion for Badminton

I never had a stronger passion for badminton in the past as compared to what I had for this year. Badminton has been a way for me to unwind, to release stress and to add a little physical exercise in my lifestyle (aside from chewing/eating haha!). This is one of the blessings I had this year. Through each game, I’m constantly reminded that no matter how good we are, it will never assure us to be always at the winning side. This applies not only in the badminton court, but also in real life. Our talents, abilities, strengths, and everything else in us that we consider our edge over the others do not guarantee success. This is the moment when we can get to appreciate better God’s sovereignty in all affairs. He holds everything carefully in His hands. All we can do is to trust Him. By the way, I got my first championship trophy in badminton for this year.  Thank You, Lord!

4. First Car, Rusty

Nothing beats the excitement and the feeling of driving my first brand new car: Toyota Vios G 1.5. Indeed, a blessing from the Lord. He gave what I needed at the right time. God is never early and never late. Every good and perfect gift comes from above.

5. Smart D-Group

Being in the corporate world is never easy. What’s easy is to get lost in all the busyness and worldly culture that the corporate world offers. It’s important to have an accountability group who will not just be a source of godly encouragement and wisdom, but also who will remind us about God, His love for us and His purpose for us. This is what I am really grateful for in being part of the Smart D-group family. Smart D-Group is one of the biggest highlight I had for 2012. I’m thankful to the Lord for allowing me to meet the people in it.

6. 6-time Monthly Qualifier

I was recognized by the management six times for a job well done in different months of 2012. Aside from the additional incentives I’m getting through it, the best thing I received because of it is to be recognized by our general manager in front of everyone in our department for being “consistent” with my performance. I’m deeply humbled because of this. If not because of the wisdom that the Lord has been instilling in me, this would not be possible. Again, it’s all because of the Lord working in me. Truly, when we seek the Lord first in everything that we are doing, everything else will follow.

7. 24th birthday

24 years of existence in this world has never been easy. I’ve gone through several struggles (and surely, there will be more…). But because of God’s grace, I am still standing firm and strong. “If not for His goodness, if not for His grace, I don’t know where I will be today…” – from the song “Still Standing” of Israel Houghton.

8. Outdoor/Getaway Trips

Made the following getaway outdoor trips: Mt. Daguldol Trek, Palawan trip, Mt. Kalisungan trek, Rock-Climbing at Rizal and Balai Isabel at Batangas. All my trips involve seeing the nature. Seeing the beauty of nature reminds me how beautiful my Creator is and how beautiful His future plans are for me.

9. Cupcakes from My Oven

I started a small-time, part-time business, My Oven. Who knows, God might make this into a big-time and full-time business someday. Whatever happens, I will always thank the Lord for the experience. I’m very thankful for hearing positive comments about my cupcakes.

10. Complete Family

Lastly, I will never stop thanking and praising the Lord for keeping my family safe and sound all throughout the year. God’s protection, provision, love and care for our family can really be felt every single day.

I may not know what 2013 has in store for me, but one thing that I am sure of is this: The Lord loves me. He is always good and He never changes.

Surely, 2013 will be another wonderful year.

“Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:19


STILL STANDING
by: Israel Houghton

You gave me courage to believe
That all your goodness I will see
And if it had not been for You
Standing on my side, where would I be?

If not for Your goodness,
if not for Your grace
I don’t know where I would be today
If not for Your kindness,
I never could say I’m still standing

If not for Your mercy, if not for Your love
I most likely would have given up
If not for Your favor, I never could say
I’m still standing but by the grace of God

To You I lift my offering
And set my heart on higher things
For if it had not been for You
Standing on my side, where would I be?

I’m still standing, I’m still standing I’m still standing but by the grace of God

Don’t Fall in Love with Life

Life can be so stirring at times. All the happenings in life can be so fascinating that we get lured to falling so much in love with it. We tend to enjoy every single moment and at the end of the day we say, “It’s been a wonderful day!”

We should never allow ourselves to fall in love with life. Life, by itself, is empty. No matter how fantastic life can be, we should not allow ourselves to be ensnared to its deceptive hopes and what it can bequeath us. All of those are just temporary. They will not last forever. It’s distressing to realize that at times life becomes so aligned to how we wanted it to be and we forget to thank the ONE who actually gave it.

“Don’t fall in love with life. Fall in love with the ONE who gave it. Fall in love with GOD.”

It’s funny how that line crossed my mind last week. I was in the office looking out the window. The people crossing the street caught my attention then suddenly that line was conceived in my mind. I don’t know why, but it has reminded me one of my devotions last year.

“There are two things, Lord, I want You to do for me before I die: Make me absolutely honest and don’t let me be too poor or too rich. Give me just what I need. If I have too much to eat, I might forget about You; if I don’t have enough, I might steal and disgrace Your name.” Proverbs 30:7-9

At the end of the day, everything will direct us to God. No matter how we rationalize everything, every detail of our lives is pointed to the Lord. Yes, life is so good, but it becomes better when we always keep in mind who actually gave it. It becomes even more captivating when we allow ourselves to fall in love with the ONE who graciously gave it. Again, life by itself is just plain emptiness, only God makes it wonderful. Be in love with God.

Thank You, Lord! You’re such a magnificent God!

*photo was taken from http://tgblankenship.blogspot.com/2011/03/god-of-love.html

 

 

 

Right Heart, Right Attitude

ImagePeople react differently in every situation. One line from the movie, “Facing The Giants” explained that our attitude is the aroma of our heart – meaning if there is a problem with our attitude on how we view things, how we react on every circumstance, how we relate to people, then we have a heart that stinks. Everyone should learn to begin their day with a right heart. Setting our hearts right at the start of each day changes our perspective towards all things around us. Starting our day with a wrong heart is like throwing ourselves to a sea of frustrations and disappointments.

In the past two weeks, I’ve noticed how my heart has affected every situation, making it frustrating and disappointing for me. No matter how simple a circumstance is, I easily get irritated with it. Just to get rid of the situation, I just allowed everything to pass by without settling the issues, not even lifting them up to the Lord in prayer. My reaction is to run away from those heart issues, pretending that everything is fine. However, the more I try to escape, the burden becomes heavier and heavier each day. It is the consequence of escaping from the issues of the heart and not resolving them. God has taught me a lesson through Isaiah 43:26.

“Review the past for Me, let us argue the matter together…”

I felt release after I’ve read this and applied it. Everything within me became lighter after I’ve settled with the Lord all the issues I’ve gone through. All I need was to set my heart right before the Lord, lay down all those burdens at His feet and continue living, correcting all the mistakes I’ve done in the past. Clearing my heart from all those burdens helped me and allowed me to react positively in every circumstance.

Keeping our hearts in tune with the Lord allows us to keep a right perspective at all times. If we make it a habit that we start each day with our hearts aligned to that of God’s, everything becomes easily manageable and our attitude towards other people, our work and our daily activities will be pleasant as well. Having a right heart always gives us a right attitude.

Did you start your day with a right heart? It’s not too late to do it. 🙂

*the photo above was taken from http://masterwordsmith-unplugged.blogspot.com/2012/06/attitude-from-gratitude.html