Rejoice In Hope

Whenever I see the sufferings in this world, especially during this time of pandemic, God reminds me about Job. Despite being a blameless and upright man, he faced trials that are too hard to bear. 

In the Bible we read that Job lost his sons and daughters and all his property. “Struck with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head”, he suffered physically. And in the extremity of his afflictions, his wife was short of encouragement as she told him to “curse God and die”. Even his friends who came to comfort him, ended up judging him guilty of sins he did not commit. 

We may not have gone through the same experiences as Job, but in some ways all of us have experienced sufferings already—those that make sense and those that don’t.

According to Paul David Tripp,

“You can’t escape the reality that the Bible teaches that suffering is not a unique experience. It’s not a strange experience. It’s not a surprising experience. It’s not an episodic experience. Suffering is a universal human experience. Starting in Romans 8:18, Paul discusses suffering, and he assumes the universality of suffering. He assumes that somehow, someway, all of us will suffer… This may not be a happy thing to hear. But if you’re not suffering now, you’re near someone who is. And if you’re not suffering now, fasten your seat belt. You will, someday.”

Most of us see that reality, especially now in this crazy time we live. And there is no guarantee that we will be spared from sufferings—from health issues, emotional distress, financial struggles, failures, betrayals, or loss of a loved one,—because we live in a fallen world and are even affected by the consequences of our own, and other’s sins. But what should our response be when faced with trials or sufferings?

Romans 12:12 says, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”

Rejoice in Hope

“Rejoice in hope” was written along with the marks of the true Christian in Romans 12. That means a true Christian rejoices in hope.

We can see Job’s hope in God despite his affliction when he said,  “I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.”

Rejoicing in hope, doesn’t mean that we deny the presence of our trials or the painful realities of life, but we rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Many of our sufferings may not only bring us pain but also shame as these sufferings often expose our weaknesses, limitations, and even our remaining sins as well. This is why when we look to ourselves, we often find nothing but hopelessness. What we must do is repent and set our hope in the Lord.

For what better hope do we have apart from what our Lord Jesus Christ has done? That the glorious Son of God came to the earth, walked the path of suffering, died the death we deserve on the cross, and rose from the dead… to reconcile us to God, so we will never have to suffer from His wrath, the worst of all sufferings that could befall us.

As God’s people, we have a living hope, not a mere expression of uncertainty or wishful thinking. It is our future resurrection through Christ’s resurrection from the dead, “to an inheritance—that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for us.” When we rejoice in that hope, we would realize that the things we suffer here are light and momentary in comparison to the glory that is to be revealed to us at our Lord’s return. What God has promised for us through Jesus is eternal.

“Paul distills the essence of the Christian life when he says, ‘Rejoice in your hope,’ since our joy is vested in the future that God promises for His people. Our joy as strangers and sojourners in this valley of tears is that God has prepared a place for us—a better world that will be consummated at Christ’s return.”

— R.C. Sproul

Be Patient in Tribulation

Our hope counters the pain and the shame that entails our sufferings. It is written in Romans 5:3-5 (ESV):

“We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Consider Job’s response when met with difficult trials. “Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.’ In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.” (Job 1:20-22 ESV)

In his grief and misery, he was patient. Despite challenging God and asking him questions, God deemed Job as one who had spoken of him what is right.

God permitted Satan to afflict Job, despite being a blameless and upright man. Why would a loving God do that to His faithful servant? It is not only to prove the genuineness of Job’s faith and strengthen his character, but more importantly, to display His glory and sovereignty over all creation.

We can be patient in tribulation because we have hope, and sufferings are not meant to break or punish His children but to sanctify us by the power of the Holy Spirit and to make us more like Christ.

Be Constant in Prayer

Aside from spending time in God’s Word, there is no other way we can commune with God but through prayer. It is an act of humility to come to our heavenly Father who cares for us. To pray in times of plenty is to acknowledge that everything we have, we received from God. And to pray in times of suffering is to trust God’s purpose for us and submit to Him, knowing that He works all things according to the counsel of His will, to the praise of His glory.

When our life’s abundance is replaced with sufferings, do we come boldly to the throne of grace or do we wander away from God?

We must be constant in prayer regardless of our circumstances, for we are in constant need of Him in whom we live and breathe and have our being. He is our help and our refuge. And apart from Him, we can do nothing.

There are many trials and sufferings in this dying world that don’t make sense, and there are still more to come that will never make sense or might only make sense when eternity is finally before our faces. But the faith which the Spirit of God has granted us is not blind faith. We have the assurance past this side of heaven, a sure and steadfast anchor of our soul: this hope that we have in Christ. Therefore, we have a reason to rejoice. And when sufferings bring you to your knees… kneel and pray, and like Job say, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him.” (Job 13:15). Set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:13)

And “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13)

To God be the glory!

Call to Action

Memorize Romans 12:12, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”, ask the Holy Spirit to help you live it out. AND share the hope of the gospel of Christ to others.

Questions to Ponder

1. What truth about God have you learned through trials and sufferings?

2. How does this truth change the way you respond to trials and sufferings that you are facing/ may face?

This is the expanded version of the message I wrote and shared along with a coworker and sister in Christ in our staff-wide devotion yesterday. We had a very limited time, so we had to shorten it and deliver it in a conversational approach as well. It took me a few days to finish and I almost cried in the process, but the grace of God held and helped me through it. I pray that this may serve as an encouragement for you to set your hope in Christ. God bless! Soli Deo Gloria!

Random: Christmas Thoughts in August

I don’t know if this sounds interesting, but each time August makes its way through the year, I’d start to listen to Christmas music. As the rain pours outside and I’m typing this, it’s playing in my dim room. Perhaps, Christmas will always be my favorite season of the year, even though I don’t have a lot of good memories of it and many things have already changed. Not many houses have Christmas lights displayed anymore. It used to be so colorful outside. Back then, there seemed to be something in the atmosphere, but in the past years, it was different.

I’m not sure if I ever had a happy Christmas or new year at home. Maybe, I had when I was a child, but life was different growing up, and my family isn’t the same as others. I’d often witness fights or arguments on special occasions and holidays. But I remember my grandma, who had always been excited about simple celebrations. We often went together to the bolante (a Sunday street market in our hometown where they sell food, vegetables, meat, clothes, and other stuff) in preparation for Christmas and New Year.

There were times during that season when she asked me what toy I wanted to buy and also took me to eat hot beef mami near the town’s plaza, and we would talk about stuff even if we had a 67-year gap. We didn’t have much, but that was special. Now that I think of it, I realize those were the only times the two of us ate somewhere together. Maybe that was the reason why it was memorable to me. But all those places and her were gone.

It is now August, again. And even though there are over a hundred days before the holidays, I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen, at least for me. It would be the second Christmas without my lola. Another lonely occasion, I guess. Honestly, I don’t know where I’d spend the holidays and the 2-week vacation from work. After all that happened since we lost our lola, I don’t have a home to go to. People said it’s best for me to keep my distance from them. They also have their own lives and families anyway.

As the music keeps playing, I was reminded again of my dream since I was a child. I did not grow up as someone who always asked for things and gifts, but I still have this one wish: to have my own family and home. I know the Christmas season is more than about these things and isn’t about me. But as I grow older (I’m no longer in my 20s now), I realize and feel even more how lonely it is to live alone. Maybe it is not wrong to desire for my dream to come true. I hope that God will soon bless me with what I have been praying for a long time. My own family, a home I could serve, and that will make this life more colorful and bearable… and that I could create meaningful memories with, not just on holidays. I pray that it is His will for me.

Experiencing Life in eLBi

I’ve always wanted to know what it feels like living in eLBi (Los Baños). I’ve been there several times before, but I never really get to explore the town. We’d only swim in the hot spring resorts or stay at my old church’s pastor and his wife’s house. Then by the end of last month, Ayel asked me to come to and stay in their dormitory for a few days. It was unplanned and I was a bit hesitant because traveling is tiring, but I went anyway.

Ayel was excited and told me she would take me to her favorite Korean restaurant, so we had dinner there. She had kimchi rice and iced coffee while I ordered bibimbap (I love bibimbap *finger heart*). It was good, although I didn’t like their kimchi because it was too salty. Now that I mentioned kimchi, I feel like making my own as I’ve been doing that whenever possible.

That same evening, she let me have peach black tea (which tasted bitter in the end because it was bland, so I just decided not to remove the tea bag. HAHA! I love peaches and peach color, too). We talked about many things until midnight. It felt like we had a lot of catching up to do, although she would often have dinner at home on Friday nights that her mom already knew our schedule. AND we were often together on Saturdays as well. Or maybe because she just got back to onsite work, she had to leave our hometown and stay in eLBi more often now. Also, since she has one of my friends courting her, we had less time to talk alone just like we used to (lately, I’ve often been their third wheel).

The next day, we brought her super active roommate an umbrella since it was drizzling. We found her playing with her friends on the field after walking and doing jump rope earlier. Seriously, I have never met anyone as active and outgoing as her. She had always been outside doing certain activities or meeting different people during my stay there. She’s very friendly as well.

We went to the Saturday market to buy our breakfast after that. I had pancit luglog and peach mango yogurt drink while Ayel had tuna wrap? (I wasn’t sure what it was). I was surprised that basil leaves and spinach were a lot cheaper than in the supermarket! They’re not even available in our hometown, and I would’ve bought some if I was sure they’ll still be fresh when I’m back home. It would’ve been fun to make a homemade spinach pizza (it’s my favorite now, and I’ve been craving it).

We just rested the whole day and only went out to eat.

On Sunday, I went to GFC, my new church. It takes me 2-3 hours to get to my church from my hometown (4-6 hours back and forth). I was glad that LB was closer to it, so I didn’t have to travel that far. On my way to the church and back to the terminal, I gave out “Are You a Good Person” Gospel Tracts from Living Waters Publication. Also, on our way to the bus terminal after the service, my friend and churchmate, March, unexpectedly bought me Jollibee fries *<3*. The security guard wouldn’t allow me to get in because I am unv*ccin*ted, although I didn’t mind because I was only there to accompany her.

I went to Ayel’s dormitory to get my things and go home, but my head started hurting. I’ve never had that painful headache before, and I almost asked her to rush me to the hospital (BUT I tried to endure it and just took a pain reliever that barely worked because I didn’t want to go to the ER as well, hehe). I have a high level of pain tolerance (sometimes, I would even doubt if I am sick when I really am because of this), and to have that pain was a bit alarming for me. It was the first time that I thought I was going to die. Thankfully, I’m alive right now, although I’ve gotten kind of sickly since a few months ago. I wasn’t sure if it was because of the chronic stress I’ve been receiving from my family from the start of the year until now or if it was something else. IDK

Due to that headache, Ayel asked me to stay over for another night and just go home the next day if I was feeling better. I also got to meet her other roommate who was back on Sunday night. We talked and laughed about many things, and it was cool to know that she’s also from our hometown. I was also glad that we seemed aligned in our beliefs. We even talked about some of the matters regarding faith. It was a short yet good time that she almost wished I didn’t have to go home just yet. I worked there on Monday and left after our work hours.

I was glad that I was able to spend those few days in eLBi, especially with Ayel. Letting me see her life and meet some of her friends there was a memorable experience. I am grateful that I have a friend and sister like her who is very accommodating, hospitable, caring, and trustworthy. She always attended to my needs during my stay even though she didn’t have to. But I guess we’re just both used to serving one another as friends and sisters in Christ. We’ve known each other for almost 10 years, and I am blessed to have this genuine friendship with her. ❤

Sharing with you the live recording of the sermon at church. God bless you! 🙂

Rest Day at Bigang Munti

Last month, my friends and I spent three days and two nights at a beach resort in Batangas. Our stay was so relaxing that I felt too lazy to take photos and video clips. Ayel took a lot of them, so I just relied on her. Haha! Anyway, We did a lot of things.

On the first night, I cooked adobo. They said it tasted good, but I wasn’t that confident because it’s not my specialty. I find it hard to master the recipe, but it is my goal to be able to cook really delicious adobo. Hehe. After dinner, we all sat on a picnic mat by the shore. One of us played the guitar, and the rest of us sang along. We also gazed at the stars in the night sky before we went to the hut and prepared to sleep.

We rode a small boat the next day, snorkeled, and watched the fishes swim underwater. However, before we were done doing that fun activity, I felt so dizzy that I would’ve passed out on the water if I didn’t ask for help to get up the boat. I was so weak that I didn’t get to enjoy the view back to the resort. All of us were tired that we slept in the cabin after having our lunch.

We woke up at 6 PM, ate snacks, and then I started cooking karaage (Japanese fried chicken) and spicy peanut noodles for dinner. After that, we prepared to surprise that little boy, King, in the attic. But I didn’t know the surprise was for me, too, since my birthday was in the previous week. Unlike other people, I don’t like surprises. But I appreciate it! It was fun, and we ended the night with a balloon fight.

On our third day, we woke up early, swam, and climbed a rock formation, and we got to see the other side of the shore. The sky was a bit dark as it was going to rain. We joked about that part where we see the light pass through the clouds, wondering what it would be like if it randomly shone on one of us and took us away. It was silly, I know. But I guess we had crazy imaginations at that time.

We had breakfast, then swam again. We tried to make the most out of the remaining time as we were about to leave at noontime. On the way home, we stopped over at a simple restaurant and ate authentic lomi and chami. It was good.

I enjoyed the time that the Lord has given me to rest and wished we could stay longer. There was no internet and other distractions, which is great, as it is always my goal to be in the moment and cherish, especially the presence of people who are dear to me.

We had this saying, “What happens in Bigang Munti. stays in Bigang Munti.” We’re not serious, though. It’s just that I woke up on our first morning and absent-mindedly used Ayel’s relatively “new” toothbrush. What’s worse? I was insisting that it was mine until I realized that we had similar toothbrushes. HAHAHA! Hers was near my toiletries bag, so yeah… *sighs* Now, we say that every time someone was going to bring up this or other funny things that happened during our stay there.

A lot of things happened that were not captured by the camera, but I’ll surely remember them even if my memory often fails me these days. Anyway, this is all I’ve got. Enjoy!

P.S. there were blurred underwater clips in the video. That’s the proof that I didn’t care if I got to take clear shots. I just wanted to watch the fishes swim, and my goggles were misty.

Random Post: Heard My Heartbeat Again Today

In October 2015, I was diagnosed with mitral valve prolapse (MVP). It is when the mitral leaflets are floppy and might cause the blood to leak backward. Most people live normal lives with this condition and without symptoms. I also do, but with mild symptoms such as shortness of breath, occasional palpitations, and chest pain. I also suspect this is a reason that I get easily tired.

Anyway, the start of the year hasn’t been that good for me. I suffered from the C**d-19 virus last January, but I’m thankful that I only had mild symptoms (despite being unv*ccin*ted). All the medicines I had to take were too pricey tho. Yet worse than that were the stressful situations in the family, especially in the few months that passed.

Several times, in those traumatic moments, I felt like my heart was giving up. It was a bad feeling I couldn’t describe. My hands shook, and I almost fainted. I got sick for days after those instances. When I was younger, I didn’t know what stress was like, despite hearing it often from people around me. But this year, It was finally clear to me what it feels like. Suddenly, I could tell that I was stressed, and its level was high when my head hurt for days (at times, I struggled to get up), and the weekends away with my friends were a much-needed breather.

When something happened again about two weeks ago, and I got dizzy, I found out that my blood pressure level went high. It was even lighter than the previous experiences I’ve mentioned, but it was the first time I was able to check my blood pressure. I was worried about how it might affect my MVP, especially since I didn’t get to see a cardiologist three years after I was diagnosed with it when I should.

I decided to see the doctor last Saturday, and I was scheduled for an echocardiogram today. Honestly, I find that test awkward and I don’t like the fact that I have to do it but it’s a professional medical service sooooo. *cries* I stared at the ceiling and just waited to hear my heartbeat. I was glad when I heard it. That’s the only part that I like. I didn’t hear it as clearly as I did the first time because the AC in the room was noisy, but I’m still quite happy. I occasionally look at the screen but it was hard to see what was on it from my position.

Took this photo after my first echocardiogram test in Oct 2015

I don’t like being checked at the hospital and undergoing tests and procedures, even if it is necessary. Maybe this is because up until now, I don’t feel comfortable with strangers looking at or paying attention to me. But I am still amazed at how wonderfully the Lord has made the human body and thankful that I get a glimpse of it. I am also grateful that I didn’t have to pay the expenses because of the health benefit I got from my employer. Currently, I’m wearing an Ambulatory Blood Pressure Monitor that inflates every 10-15 minutes. I decided to write this blog post so I don’t have to focus on my sore arm. Tomorrow, they will extract blood from me for the laboratory tests that my cardiologist requested. *cries more*

I’m hoping for a favorable result on my overall health. I hope you are doing well. God bless you!

Fun day at the Lake

Last month, some of my friends from Manila came to our hometown, and we spent time at the lake. We thought we wouldn’t be able to ride the bamboo raft as it was raining when we arrived, but thankfully, the rain stopped!

I wasn’t feeling well that I didn’t get to swim, although, I had fun taking photos and video clips (and laughing at their funny and crazy conversations off cam). With all the things happening within the family, it was a blessing that I got to destress and breathe. And we watched the sunset! I’m really thankful to the Lord for weekends like this where I get to go somewhere away.

I took clips supposedly for IG stories only (or maybe TikTok as well), but the unposted videos took up a lot of storage space on my phone, so I decided to compile them before moving them to the trash. Here it is!

Also, this is a funny story. As soon as we rode the bamboo raft, someone got King (the little boy in the video who is also my godchild) a coconut, and he instantly considered it his friend. While his eyes were off the coconut, one of our guides picked it up and was about to throw it with so much force into the woods, thinking it was rubbish. But I, in shock, immediately stopped him from doing so and told him it was the boy’s friend coconut.

We would joke around about it on our way home, saying that if I didn’t stop the guide, we wouldn’t have gotten back to the lakeside peacefully. King loved his friend coconut that it was the first thing he looked for when he woke up the next day, and if I’m not mistaken, he still has it until now. And it is untouchable! Haha! No one touches his coconut!

Feeling A Bit Under the Weather

The nights are getting colder again as the rain in the rainy season shows up. I mean, it had been hot even after summer ended. It rains more often in our hometown and the towns nearby, unlike in other places I’ve lived or have been to, but I can’t seem to get used to it. Not that I don’t like rainy days, but I like it less than summer. It also makes people a bit sentimental. Anyhow, it’s more comfortable to sleep because of the temperature.

Lately, I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather. I am overwhelmed, and tired, and weary. I don’t know. Somehow, there are these lingering thoughts in my heart and mind that I couldn’t express nor put into words. It’s like I’m getting lost in a maze of emotions. And it may not be right to say this, but I feel so alone and lonely.

This pandemic even heightens the already painful feeling. Losing a loved one, leaving my old church and moving to a new one, my closest friends suddenly growing cold and distant, feeling isolated at work because of the online setup, family concerns, living alone, and on lockdown. So much has been going on in my life that confuses and affects me. I cried yesterday as the topics in our women’s Bible study session in the morning and our small group study in the afternoon somehow confronted what I’ve felt and have been feeling. And it’s been a while since I cried about the things that kind of hold me down.

If I’m honest, many times, I wish I don’t have to go through this on my own. No matter how used I am to being by myself, this whole situation makes me realize how I long to weather this stormy life with someone. I’m not saying this out of desperation or neediness, but it just occurs to me every time. And even more than the desire for someone to be there for me is my longing to be there for them as well. I’ve been praying for a long time, and the answers seem far out of reach. Maybe I’ll figure it out, or maybe I won’t. I don’t know. It depends solely upon God’s will.

With all these questions in my mind, feelings of loneliness, and entangling uncertainties, the Lord remains faithful. I’ve been rediscovering and learning more about His gentleness and compassion towards His children. It’s very timely. I hope the painful season of waiting will be over soon. Nevertheless, I pray that I may keep trusting and resting in Him.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30, ESV

Need a new song to listen to? I got your back. 😉

Been listening to this song especially in my season of sorrow and grief. Thank you for your time! God bless you.

[20180118] Unsent Message From the Past

A doodle I made on the 17th of January, 2018.

There are so many things I’m still dying to tell you, aside from those I already told you about. But there are so many moments when I can’t find the words or, I just find my heart holding back.

Your face, when I stare at it, I feel at ease. Your voice, when I hear it, I think I could rest on it. There isn’t any sound better than your laughter or the way you breathe. There isn’t any encouragement better than the way you lead me closer to the One my soul yearns for and needs.

Are you okay? Is there something that hurts? Do you still feel alone or losing heart? You know you have someone, and even with those long little letters, I’m afraid you don’t see. In the saddest of your days, I’m crying and praying. Even though you’ve lost everything you held so tightly… On this side of the earth, you have me.

Thank you, my sweet tranquility.

One or two days after I drew the doodle above, I wrote this (on Jan 18, 2018, three years ago today), then posted it on my now deactivated personal IG account. Before this, I told myself that I wasn’t going to write anything for anyone else but my future husband. I’m not yet married nor do I know who he is yet, so basically, this was a “compromise”.

I’m not one who talks a lot about this area of my life. But the person I wrote this for is the first person I truly loved. And what I wrote was how I exactly felt when he was around, and even more that I couldn’t find words for. He never read it as I never sent it. I was scared to let him know, although perhaps, my actions told him so. Anyway, it wouldn’t matter to him now.

He had me, and I lost him. We were an untold story, and he probably has forgotten about me… but to me, this remains a bittersweet memory.

The sound of his voice and his laughter gave me that sense of calmness. I didn’t get butterflies whenever he smiled at me, instead, I felt at ease. It’s crazy, I know. He was the one who helped me get back on my feet and encouraged me when I was so down. I’ve never had anyone support me, put up with my weaknesses and pray for me the way he did.

But I didn’t love him because of all the things he did for me, although there’s a lot. No… I loved him for who he is. I cried and prayed for him. And I found myself more than willing to put his needs above my own. If I could, I would give anything just to put a smile on his face or silence whatever thoughts went through his mind.

I didn’t get the chance to do all that and everything I hoped to do for him that I kept to myself.

It’s been two years since he stepped out of my life, and more often than not, he still crosses my mind. There are times when it’s okay, and there are also times when I would cry. I wish our story didn’t end the way it did. But acceptance was my only resolve. I mean, I was left with no other choice. I would’ve kept fighting for him, if only he fought for me. We could’ve faced battles together, except I was left alone.

I often wondered how he’s doing and what could’ve been if things between us remained the same. But living separate lives has become our reality. I pray he’s alright and finding his joy in the Lord. I don’t have to know the answers. My hope for him is in Christ.

Many people grow hatred and bitterness for those that broke their hearts and caused them pain. But as time goes by, I realized that it was not the same with me. He is flawed and imperfect like I am, and I have forgiven him. All the hurt was even less than everything I’m thankful for, for having him in my life. The way he always pointed me to Christ meant a lot.

Honestly, if only the circumstances between us right now are different, if there’s still a possibility for us to continue what we had or start over again, to change how our story goes and ends, to do and be for him what I longed for… If only he will come back, I’d risk it again if it means I could love him again and love him still. If only there is still a chance, I’d gladly take the risk with and for him, according to our Lord’s will.

Considering the last thing I heard from him, he might be happily married by now and living the life he dreamed of with someone else. So, I always struggle and strive to do the right thing no matter how hard it is. I ask the Lord that I may not fall into the sin of still wanting an already married man, that I would be free from its shame and guilt.

I trust in God’s plans and His faithfulness in guiding my path and my every decision… His grace is sufficient and He will preserve me. He is the only One who knows because He’s the One who holds my life and who chose someone for me (if marriage is His will for me)… and nothing will hinder Him from pulling us closer until we’re together, for His good and perfect plan will always prevail. I’m grateful that my hope is in Him and that hope will never be failed.

Thanks for enduring and putting up with this very personal and heartfelt post that I had second thoughts about publishing. God bless you.

Stamp Carving, Books, and Bible Study

The weather started changing a few weeks ago. It’s often raining in my hometown lately. Also, the colder months are approaching. Don’t get confused. We do not have fall nor winter (it has always been my dream to experience both, especially fall. Huhu). But by colder months, I mean the months less hot than summer and the regular sunny days. Those are usually in November-February. It’s still hot in the afternoon, but I started turning into a blanket burrito in the mornings and the evenings this October. The breeze is a little cold, and I’m not complaining.

I honestly couldn’t think of an intro to this post, so I just wrote about the weather. This is a cool way to start a conversation with others, don’t you think so? Haha! So yeah.

Stamp Carving

Recently, I tried carving stamps. It was so relaxing and fun. I tend to get distracted easily, and since my last depression and anxiety situation, I’ve noticed that there were many times when I got a bit disoriented. It also seems that I am no longer as careful and attentive as I used to be. In learning this new skill, I could practice focusing for a long time. I find that it’s necessary to concentrate since you often cannot undo a mistake. I’m also not good at handling sharp objects except the scissors so, I have to be careful. I cut my finger twice (and I felt like fainting seeing the blood. Haha), but I enjoyed the activity that I did that for most of my weekend before the last. I’m planning to make more for big projects, and I finished about 35% of the design the other night.

The fourth design I created. It’s my first time using this softer material so excuse the imperfect text.

New Books

The books I ordered from the US came last week. It’s honestly sad that there aren’t a lot of solid Christian books in my country, so I have no choice. Sometimes, it’s cheaper in the US, except for the shipping fee which, at times, costs more than the product itself. It was reasonable until I had to pay an additional tax to our local post office to claim my package. But I found out about a cheaper (safe and legal) way to buy products from the US that I can use in case there is anything I need that’s not available in the country. I wish I have figured that out earlier!

I was planning to buy The Valley of Vision. I have been interested in it since I listened to Sovereign Grace Music’s Valley of Vision album and some other posts I read on IG. But because of the additional amount in the shipping fee, I purchased Flourish: How the Love of Christ Frees Us from Self-Focus by Lydia Brownback instead as it wouldn’t exceed my budget. I think it’s a good read. I’m still in the 3rd chapter. Hence, there’s a lot left to read before I can say more about it. But here’s some of those written in the book that struck me:

Are we pursuing personal change in order to enrich our walk with God and to shine better light on the gospel, or are we basically just dissatisfied with ourselves? And a related question to ponder: Do we hate sin because it’s sin or because of the painful consequences it brings?

— Lydia Brownback

The other book in the picture, Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both our Hearts and our Minds, was the book I mentioned two posts ago that encouraged me to do a deeper study of the Bible, aside from the Bible Hermeneutics I attended. Both emphasized the central message of the Bible: the Redemption story of Christ, and discussed the exegetical method of studying the Bible. I’m planning to share my learnings with others through my blog once I finalized my initial draft. I have realized that you need to be extra careful in these things. That is why I’m taking my time and not rushing to publish it. I want to rightly handle the truth and point my readers to Christ.

In this book, the author discussed the wrong ways many Christians study and interpret the Bible (especially eisegesis), the case for Bible literacy, and taught her readers to study with purpose, with perspective, with patience, with process, and with prayer. I’m done reading the ebook that they offered for free for a time, but I wanted to have a copy of the physical book, so I can lend them to my friends who might be interested.

I’m currently using this material to discuss with a friend with who I shared the Gospel, and she appreciates its rich and helpful content. I recommended this to Ayel, and after reading, she started following it, too. She also recommended this to her friend, who ended up doing the method as well. I think if Christian women are taught about exegesis and its importance, then it would really make a difference. It really saddens me to see many professing believers who do not give time and effort in knowing God through the Scriptures. Many are led by their emotions and settle with what the false gospels in social media teach them.

“When women grow increasingly lax in their pursuit of Bible literacy, everyone in their circle of influence is affected. Rather than acting as salt and light, we become bland contributions to the environments we inhabit and shape, indistinguishable from those who have never been changed by the gospel. Home, church, community, and country desperately need the influence of women who know why they believe what they believe, grounded in the Word of God. They desperately need the influence of women who love deeply and actively the God proclaimed in the Bible.”

— Jen Wilkin, Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both our Hearts and our Minds

There are lot of learnings to share from this book, the Hermeneutics seminar, and even the series of seminars we had at work about the correct biblical worldview, Bible literacy, the status of many Christians today regarding these topics, and the importance of reading, studying and obeying God’s Word. But it would be too long if I include it in this post.

Bible Study

A glance at my personal Bible study. Essentials: Study Bibles, printed chapter, sticky note pad, pens, pencil, and eraser.

I use my two study Bibles (The Reformation Study Bible Condensed Edition and ESV Study Bible) to check for the author, genre, theme, background and to understand the confusing parts. But I no longer rely on the notes as much I did in the past. Reading them usually occurs in the last part of my study to confirm whether I understood the passages correctly or not. My current way of studying the Bible helps me grasp the truth of God’s Word better, and memorize the verses naturally since there are a lot of times when I have to read through the passages over again. All these wouldn’t be possible without the work of the Holy Spirit!

I have read the book of John many times, but God enables me to see things more clearly. It’s as though I’m reading it for the first time. I can say that it’s like digging treasures, but these treasures are ones of eternal worth and value. He is truly amazing! And it’s humbling.

We spend a lot of time learning different things that are finite. So, doesn’t it make more sense that we need to continually know our God through diligent study of His Word because He is infinite and eternal? There is so much to learn about Him that we will not fully learn in our lifetime, I know. But it shouldn’t keep us from learning and seeking God more through His very Word because Christians live by it. It’s foolishness to think or act as though we don’t need to behold the God we claim to worship through the Scriptures, knowing that the true worshippers worship Him in spirit and in truth, not emotions. Also, we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind. This is the greatest commandment. May we not forget.

To end this post, here’s a song from the Valley of Vision. On the 24th of this month, It’ll be a year since the scary threat happened, and this is one of those songs I listened to that encouraged me. I’ve been ending my posts with worship music, but why not? Hehe. I hope you are encouraged, but more than that, I hope you are encouraged in Christ. God bless you! Soli Deo gloria!

B-Minor Chord and Second+ Chances

In February 2018, I bought a ukulele, which I named Hana (meaning flower in Japanese, or grace in Hebrew, and bliss in Arabic). Soon as I learned a few basic chords, I was able to play a lot of songs that I love. Since then, it has been my sort of companion in worship, leisure, and teaching.

I found myself struggling with new chords, having small hands. My fingers are short that I often couldn’t reach the strings on frets that are apart at the same time. So, I look for alternatives, or if there’s none easy, I don’t play the song anymore. One of those chords that intimidated me was B minor. I tried it so many times, but I couldn’t get it right. It was also painful that I feel like I’ll end up with a twisted arm (an exaggeration but you get the idea). You already know what I do next: I stop.

Yesterday, I thought of playing the song, Only A Holy God by CityAlight, then I saw the Bm chord. Initially, what came to my mind was the acceptance that I cannot play it. But I really wanted to. I had to tell myself that it has been a long time that I’m avoiding this chord. And if I deal with it the same way every time, I’m never going to learn how to play it. What a shame for a ukulele owner who’s been playing for over two years now! So, I gave the Bm chord another chance and practiced it along with the other chords from the song, and after about half an hour, I finally learned it! With a few more time practicing today, I’m slowly getting it right–though imperfectly.

God has been teaching me about second+ chances recently. Also, the message in our online Sunday service was Second Chances, and that is what we discussed in our small group on Monday. The topic covered offense by a brethren, responsibilities it affected, your manner of resolution, dealing with those people, and how you can bring Glory to God in those situations. I was taken back to a year ago the same time I was listening to other sisters share their thoughts. I found myself holding back the tears during our discussion, but I failed as soon as I gave the answers required of me (thankfully, there was an option to turn off your camera on Google Meet).

It was almost two hours of remembering the pain people caused me and their consequences. It happened the time I was ready to leave ministerial responsibilities and had no plans delaying it anymore. That decision put me into the risk of judgment that being offended was the reason. All the betrayals were painful, but they weren’t the reason. Most people didn’t know that I already decided long before any of the conflicts happened. But I have learned that I don’t always have to explain myself.

I faced people with a mask. I couldn’t speak to others about it. I downplayed the pain and acted like I was okay when I really wasn’t. I have somehow failed in my part. Perhaps, that was enough for me to deserve all the hurt that I had to silently carry in the presence of those people who hurt me and around those who might have heard what happened (if the matter didn’t remain confidential to others).

Honestly, for quite some time, I was desperate to defend myself, or for someone to defend me, but the people I trusted and who know the truth held their peace. It seemed unfair that only one side was heard and favored. I felt belittled, betrayed, and alone. I never received an apology, but it only makes sense because they didn’t know the truth.

Anyway, as I shared my thoughts with the sisters, I was careful not to give the details and just focused on the topic. With that painful experience in mind, these were some of the things I remembered saying during our discussion:

It doesn’t matter who hurt more. It doesn’t matter if they hurt me more. Yes, they have sinned against me, but then, I think that in some ways, maybe I have sinned against them as well.

That’s what I’ve been thinking of. Not just for those people, but for all the others in the past who wronged me. Their sins are in no way acceptable, but my personal sins aren’t as well. I feel ashamed for mine. If I stand before God, I would be as guilty as they are.

Yet this was the reason Christ came: to save sinners. If I think of it, none of us deserve forgiveness. All of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. But even when we were dead in our transgressions, Jesus died for us. I look at this truth in my life.

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

(Romans 5:6-8 ESV)

Also, as the song, Only a Holy God goes in verse 4:

Who else could rescue me from my failing
Who else would offer His only Son
Who else invites me to call Him Father
Only a Holy God, Only my Holy God

If God has rescued me from my failing, if I have been reconciled to God through Christ, I must obey His command to forgive the people who hurt me and give them another chance (Lord willing), regardless of what they did because God gave me infinite chances when He chose to save me.

It will not be easy. It’s like the B-minor chord that I tried to avoid ever since I started playing the ukulele. Once I gave it another chance to be played, I ended up with my arm and wrist feeling twisted and my fingertips sore (besides the fact that I’m already suffering from skin allergy on my hands and palms). But now I know how to play the chord, and I’m able to play more songs than I could imagine! Similarly, forgiving people who wronged me and giving them another chance doesn’t guarantee that it will be free from pain, it would even probably hurt more than what learning the Bm chord costs. But who knows the peaceful music of restored relationships? I stretch and open my heart to see and I pray God will grant me the grace not to keep a record of wrongs.

Below is the song that helped me learn the B-minor chord. Soli Deo Gloria! God bless you!