Family, Just My Thoughts

What are you grateful for?

It’s been more than a hundred days of quarantine! How have you been? King asked us the other night what we were thankful for, being home now for more than 3 months. Common answers from the kids were bonding and food. I guess they know their priorities. 😂 Thought I’d share my answers too.

First, I’m grateful that we have not gone crazy and killed each other, being home together 24/7 all this time. We had a good laugh about this, but all agreed. I believe it helps that everyone has his or her own space to retreat to. Well, except maybe me, because Gianna seems to have a homing device set to always find mommy. I guess it’s a good thing she’s not sick of me yet. Unless of course I go outside and do my weeding. When I ask her to help, she does the opposite and stays away 😂. I should go do that again this week 😉. A space in the back to see some green, gaze up at the sky, and to get some fresh air, is very much a blessing as well.

We were recording outside for VBC 🙂

I also believe that our connection to the outside world helps keep us all sane. Thank God for technology and a techie husband! The kids are able to talk to their friends online. King and I are able to talk to (and laugh with) our friends. We may be stuck in one place physically, but we are able to enjoy staying home, and somewhat enjoy our friends. The older girls even watch shows or movies online with their friends. So gen z, don’t you think?

But it also goes to show we genuinely enjoy one another. There are disagreements and certain issues, needless to say, but we are a close knit family. King and I are deliberate in bringing our family together, but I think we gravitate to one another anyway. It’s either I bug them in their room to give/get hugs or just goof around, or they come into my room to snuggle or tell me random stuff. About anime or a favorite band or a favorite character or whatever. I joke that my new name is Momluk, because everyday, one or two or all three call me to look at whatever they want to show me. “Mom, look!!!” Yes, at the same time sometimes. And sometimes, “Mom, look! Mom, look! Mom, look!” I keep telling them that it’s torture what they do to me. 😂😂😂

Second, I’m grateful to be living a less hurried life. No rush to get out the door and bring the kids wherever, or get to a meeting, or juggle my schedule to accomodate their needs and mine. I’m able to rest. I’m able to spend more time reading my Bible, praying and journaling, without as much distraction as before. I’m able to cook dishes, read, draw and make art with Gianna, hang with the girls, watch some shows (though I’ve only finished one and a half seasons of one show on netflix), have devotions with the family, continue decluttering, play, dance, write.

Less hurried but still having busy days. In May, I had Mom Talk, where I shared, along with 2 other moms, about Faith and Journaling online. It was my first time to do something like that ever. Another faith-stretching, character-building experience for me. Noelle continued ballet classes online. King also had Me and My Dad Camp (at home) that month with Gianna. It was her first time to participate. We all also spent some days recording and editing stuff for Vacation Bible Camp. The girls had an online math enhancement program provided by their school for two weeks last month, and we got a taste of what it will be like in the coming school year. It will be another adjustment for all of us, but hey, we were built to adapt. God’s grace is abundant. 🙏

They were in a tent at the backyard for Me and My Dad camp, while we were having a movie date. 🙂
Each of our girls finished the program for their level 🙂

Third, I’m grateful that church and discipleship did not stop. It’s amazing how the church quickly adapted to the change. Livestreaming for Sunday services and daily devotions were set up. Leadership convergences and trainings, marriage talks, youth services and others were put up online. Our church community is alive! Our meetings with our leaders continue via zoom. Our meetings with our own couples discipleship group continue via zoom. In fact, the young professionals group I was supposed to start with two ladies in April pushed through in June, but now with five ladies. 

Monthly meeting with the Pastors’ wives 🙂
Bi-monthly meeting with the wives of our couples group 🙂

Even Kids Church could not be stopped. There is kids church online every Sunday. Me and My Dad Camp, which is usually held in camping grounds in Tagaytay or Rizal, was held in the participants’ homes. And there were at least 70 families who signed up and joined! And VBC! We started meeting for this in January, and the praise dance team started meeting for practices in February. We thought that because we were unable to gather due to the lockdown, VBC would be pushed to next year. But the Kids Ministry team and volunteers made a way for this to happen online! What a privilege for the praise dance team to still be part of it. And would you believe we had nearly 200 participants??? Gianna was a first time participant too! Amazing what God has been doing. ❤️

Danae and Gianna with some of the praise dancers for VBC at Home!

Opportunity. This is what was presented to us in the last 3 months. Did we find it? Have we used it? I hope that instead of complaining about how the quarantine is limiting us, we find the opportunities in our situation. The opportunity to spend time with our loved ones. The opportunity to bless our frontliners. The opportunity to contribute to the livelihood of others by buying local and buying from our friends. The opportunity to connect with people, whether at home or online with people we haven’t spoken to for some time. The opportunity to mend relationships. The opportunity to read. To learn something new. To be creative. To teach somebody. To hone our skill by sharing it to others. To start a business. To write music or poetry. To slow down, refocus, realign, recalibrate. To serve. To pray. To use our platform to encourage and to impart faith.  

There is always opportunity to be grateful. I pray most of all that this is what we have learned in quarantine — to find the silver lining and make the choice to be grateful. ❤️🙏❤️

 I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. Psalm 9:1

Family, Just My Thoughts

(not so) Happy Easter

Thirteen years ago. April 8. Easter Sunday. But instead of celebrating the resurrection of Jesus, we were mourning the death of my dad. He passed away on Easter Sunday of the year 2007. His death surprised us. His death saddened us. His death hurt us. But there was grace and there was hope. And it is exactly the resurrection of Jesus that gave me that hope.

The hope that my dads death is not the end. The hope of my dad enjoying eternal life with Jesus in heaven. The hope of reuniting with him when it is our time to go.

I am assured of this because he grew up with parents who loved Jesus and prayed for their children (and grandchildren — I believe I am a fruit of their prayers). They were faithful and active church-goers. And big Bible readers. My lola would make it a point to grab one of her apos to share bible verses with us while she sat in her rocking chair. I honestly disliked the interruption to our playtime. I dreaded being chosen haha. I believe she was the one who taught us and got us to memorize Psalm 23. So if she sowed prayers for me and seeds of faith in me, that are, by the grace of God, bearing fruit to this day, she definitely sowed the same seeds in my dad. I know this too because some time between his passing and Giannas birth, I found a certificate saying he led the youth of Church of the Risen Lord for a year or two. Faith in action right there.

I am also assured because though my dad seemed to have lost his way, he told me during one of what would have been our last visits in the hospital, that he needed to keep his faith up. I don’t remember praying with him, but I know King and some of our friends did, and I made sure to let him know that we, including his one and only favorite grandchild at that time, Danae, were constantly praying for him. I know he was seeking, praying, and going back to God at that time. And I believe the Lord showed up and led him back. He and my mom experienced the love of Jesus through family who donated their platelets, but also through the church — people they did not know personally and who did not know them personally, but gave of themselves to help my dad. They knew as well that so many were praying for his healing.

My dad is gone. That Easter Sunday was not such a happy one. But that does not at all diminish the true meaning and significance of Easter or my gratitude for it. Thank you Jesus for taking our place on the cross and, being the only One qualified, dying to pay for all our sins once and for all…to redeem us, so we can have a way back to the Father. Thank you Jesus for conquering death, and rising again on the third day. Because of your resurrection, we too can enjoy life after death, with You in heaven. Thank You for giving that gift to my dad. Thank You for offering that gift to each one of us as well.

I pray that whoever reads this, receives this gift of salvation. By faith, which the Lord Himself will supply you with. Especially in this current health crisis, with so much uncertainty about the future.

Would you pray with me?

Heavenly Father…. I am tired. I am sick. I am worn down. I am burnt out. I feel lost. I feel empty. I feel hopeless. I feel alone. I feel rejected and unloved. I am overwhelmed. I am confused. I am afraid. I don’t know what to do anymore. I acknowledge that I need You. I acknowledge that I don’t have the answers. You know better than I. I don’t have the power or the control. You do. I acknowledge that it is my sin that has caused my separation from You. I thank You that though I am a sinner, You love me anyway, so much so that You sent Your Son, Jesus, to pay the penalty for my sin. I believe that He died on the cross for me. I believe that You raised Him from the dead. I am sorry for my sins. Please forgive and cleanse me. I surrender. I want to turn away from everything that is not right in Your eyes, and I receive Jesus as my Lord, Master, and Savior. I receive the gift of salvation. Thank You for taking my burden from me and setting me free! Help me to love, serve, and obey You, for the rest of my life. In Jesusname, Amen. ❤️

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:17

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. Romans 5:6-11

 

Please feel free to message me or email me if you have prayed this prayer and want to talk about this more. Or you may get connected to our leaders at the Victory Alabang Facebook Page. God bless you!

Family, Motherhood

Mother and Daughter

I think it was last week when Danae stayed with me in the supermarket after dinner, while King brought the two younger girls home. I appreciated the company, especially because she’s not anymore the toddler that she was, who would get her own cart and stash sanitary napkins and other things in it. I also appreciate one on one time with my girls. It’s more peaceful because no one is competing against the other for talk time and attention. Just picture 3 talkative girls coming at you all at the same time. Hahaha.

I like to goof around with my kids, and Danae, even at her age, still likes to goof around with me. She’s not too cool for me yet, though sometimes she begs me to stop hahaha. At the cashier, while waiting for our turn, we were laughing about something. Danae suddenly mused that she wished she was still the only child. Awwww. I told her that was really sweet AND really mean at the same time.

I love that she enjoys spending time with me and just me. She enjoys going on solo dates with her dad as well. What a boost to know that for somebody who loves being with her friends so much, she still needs her time with mommy. Although it was mean of her to say that she prefers to be without her sisters, it also warmed my heart. It wasn’t even a date date. We weren’t doing anything special. We weren’t at a place she really really wanted to go to. It was simply quality alone time between mother and daughter.

When it was our turn at the cashier, Danae suddenly sang and danced Grease Lightning. I mumbled and danced along with her haha. The cashier lady commented, “ang cool nyong mag-ina.” That made me smile. I always want to be the mom my kids can count on when the going gets rough, the mom who teaches the tough lessons of life, but also the mom who laughs hard, plays around and is unafraid to be silly with them. ❤

Thankful for the privilege of being a mother. ❤ 

Children are a heritage from the Lord,
    offspring a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
    are children born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
    whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
    when they contend with their opponents in court. Psalm 127:3-5

Family, My Kids

Noelle Speaks

When we got home from the hospital, Noelle surprised her sister (and us) with a video. She doesn’t want the video shared, but she gave me permission to share what she said in written form. 🙂

I am really inspired by my sister that she really is…..love. Even though she doesn’t hug me and she doesn’t even kiss me, I still love her. She’s part of my heart. Well, I want her to hear this because I love her so much (about to cry so she stopped the video).

Ate, you are a loving, kind sister. Whenever someone hurts you, I defend you. And even though you don’t defend me, you’re still here (puts her hand on her chest). You’re still my big sis. I pray that you were well when you had your surgery. I’m sorry for all the things that I have done to you, for all the bad things I’ve done to you. Um, if you’re listening, I want to say this. You..are…my….you are a part of my heart. I love you so much ate. Please forgive me for all bad things I’ve done to you and I pray for you that you were okay when you did your surgery, and….. thank you for being my big sister and for always caring for me. And like that time when you were going to (sniff) share the candy with me…. I was like, no it’s fine but you still gave me (sniff, holding back tears). I think you don’t remember this because it was a long long time ago. Sigh. I wanna say this again, you are part of my heart. You are my big sis. I love you and…. makes a heart shape with her hands.  Blows a kiss….I love you. Hugs and kisses by me (flips hair)! I relly really really want to show you that I love you even though I make mistakes and I hit you, I’m sorry. Well I hope it’s not too late to say sorry…….

And I wanna keep on saying this again and again. I love you, you’re a part of my heart. And whenever you you get hurt by someone, I’m like, just come with me. And whenever she cries, I cry. You also inspire me to do like good things, and also you…. when I say to you ate “does this look nice?” and then you’re like you have to change. That’s fine….. because you know, you’re older than me. Whenever you say you’re the boss of me, I don’t like it. But you are older than me, so I don’t consider you as a boss. I consider you as a big sister. I love you. Blows a kiss.

What a sweetheart, my Noelle. She has always had a soft spot for her sisters. God bless her heart. And we continue to pray that she, Danae, and Gianna will have an extraordinary bond as sisters. ❤

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Family, My Kids

Mommy Writes

Mommy’s turn!

The first time I encountered “it” was when Danae was around 2 years old. She wasn’t in any pain. She was actually just singing her heart out in the shower. I immediately called my aunt, who is a pediatrician, and she confirmed my fears. “It” was a hernia. I instantaneously cried over the phone, knowing that surgery was the only way to fix it. I did not want my baby to have to go through something like that.

But because it never gave her any problems — no pain, no changes in her bodily functions — and because I guess we were foolishly hoping it would resolve on its own, it took us 8 years to finally consult a pedia surgeon. The birth defect (not an injury) needed to be closed so that she could safely do gymnastics and other activities. Though it was not an emergency situation, we wanted it done a.s.a.p.

They humored her request! We joked that we are in the business of making dreams come true. She said, yay! Tomorrow, another dream is coming true. My surgery will be done! 🙂

 

I believe in the Lord’s timing, and I believe that though it seems late, Danae’s surgery was done at the right time. She’s more mature now, and she understands why it was necessary. She has always been brave, but God supplied her with so much courage and grace to endure this. I had to put a brave face on for her the whole time because I am not brave! With so many thoughts entering my head and fears threatening to disable me, I enlisted our family and a lot of friends to pray for and with us. That, and the peace of God that transcends understanding, certainly kept me standing.

There was no question that I would be the one staying with Danae in the hospital, and King would be shuttling back and forth to hospital and home. I’m so thankful that when it comes to family matters like this, it’s never hard for King to ask for a leave. It became a time of bonding for me and Danae. She got to have mommy (and daddy at certain hours) all to herself. I was happy to serve and help her. The two younger ones were safe at home with my mom during the day and with King in the evening.

When it was time to have her IV inserted, she was afraid. My outgoing, brave, confident, independent young lady became a timid, nervous, needy baby who wanted mommy to hug and hold her as they put the needle in. She cried in pain. She cried also through the pesky skin test. I wanted to cry too haha, but I was the adult. I needed to be strong for her. I just kept comforting her, encouraging her. It was late, but when she asked for TV, I obliged. As my mom advised, I helped keep her spirits up.

In the morning, while waiting, the anesthesiologist came in. All this time (I even signed papers to consent to it), we thought she would be given General Anesthesia. They could, but because of the asthma factor, it was more risky having a tube in her throat. Apparently that’s how GA is administered. They put you to sleep and then insert a tube in your throat for the gas to go through. When the anesthesiologist suggested spinal anesthesia, since she is physically big enough for it (he said that she’s big for her age — he should see a lot of her taller friends haha), I was not able to hide my apprehension. That was the same anesthesia I received, giving birth to Gianna. Could my Danae handle that? But the doctor assured us that they would do what we were most comfortable with. Thank God we had time to decide. Thank God King was there. I would never want to make major decisions like that on my own. We agreed that spinal anesthesia was safest for Danae.

About to be wheeled down to the surgery unit. Nervous but still smiling. 🙂

 

As she was being wheeled from her room to the surgery unit, she kept calling me, making sure I was right with her. She wanted me to be the one in the waiting area with her, and in the recovery room afterwards. I asked the anesthesiologist if he could sedate her while still in the waiting area, and he was kind enough to do it. He understood that Danae was nervous about being wheeled into the OR without me. He even agreed with me in prayer when I prayed for Danae while he was putting the sedative in her IV.

About an hour and a half later, surgery was done. I was right outside the door when they called for Lucero. The surgeon met me inside, told me that it took longer than expected because her hernia was so small. She said that small hernias are more dangerous because intestines are more likely to get trapped. God’s grace right there! Nothing of the sort happened to Danae all these years! The surgeon was happy also to say that Danae didn’t even flinch when the spinal anesthesia was given to her. She did great!

When I saw Danae, however, I saw her eyes closed but wet with tears. She kept talking but tears kept running down her cheek. I knew she wasn’t in pain, but I guess she was feeling overwhelmed. She couldn’t stop her tears from falling. I encouraged her to sleep, but she didn’t want to in the first hour. She needed to lay flat on her back for 6 hours. We also needed to wait for the anesthesia to wear off. She was hungry, but she eventually slept. She kept repeating that she was hungry when she would wake up. I would fall in and out of sleep too. At times I’d read. I’d pray for the others who were there in the recovery room. 6 hours is a looooong time to wait on a monobloc chair. But I thank God that because Danae’s a child, she was allowed company.

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My facebook post 🙂

 

Back in her room, she said she was happy that the surgery is over. Whew, me too!!!! We thanked God for everything. None of it would have been possible without Him. I was happy that the operation was a success, that her vitals were stable the entire time, that there are no complications, and that SHE’S ALIVE. Today, she is recovering very well. Praise God. 🙂

Through the 3 short days, my daughter learned to be more grateful. She thanked me each time I helped her ❤ ❤ ❤ . I don’t think I’ve ever received so many sincere thank yous that are not because of something material. On the way home, during a moment of quiet inside the car, she said “Thank You Lord.” That was probably the most sincere and meaningful prayer of thanks I ever heard her say. Indeed, our whole family thanks You, Lord. ❤

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First steps at home, with Wowa’s walker. 🙂

 

Thank you so much, family and friends, for standing with us in prayer. Thank you for checking on us as well. God bless each of you.

Click here and here for Danae’s take on her experience. 🙂

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
    Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you.
    I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. Isaiah 41:10

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
His faithful love endures forever. PSalm 136:1

But I will restore you to health

and heal your wounds,’

declares the Lord, Jeremiah 30:17a

Family, TRAVEL

Our Apo Island Adventure (Persistence Pays Off! 2)

After our super fun and satisfying day in Manjuyod, we were scheduled to go to Apo Island the following day. When we woke up, it was raining. Staying at Bethel Guest House, we could usually see the Boulevard and the sea clearly. But because of the rain, the sea seemed foggy and the sky was dark and gloomy. King then asked the dreaded question — is it safe to go?

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View from our room in Bethel Guest House, on a nice sunny day.

I thought for a minute and also asked my mom. But before she answered, I already thought about a few boat rides we’d already experienced that were worse, also due to rough seas. I mean we got through okay. We didnt capsize or fall into the water or lose our things. So King and I both said that yeah, it’s fine. Persist we must, haha. Besides, we were assured by our tour operator that the waters going to Apo Island are more calm than in Manjuyod at this time of year.

We were picked up by our van around 7am and we got to the port maybe an hour later. We passed through a market to get there. It was a Wednesday so it was market day. They sold all kinds of stuff including different kinds of dried fish and even lechon, which of course my mom did not hesitate to buy. It was actually good. We also saw the area where the locals auction off their animals (cows, pigs, goats, chickens).

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On our way to our boat. Light rain and loud waves.

We were required to wear life vests as soon as we got off the van, and Gianna had to endure wearing hers haha. It was too big. Our tour guide, who was actually quite nice, told us that it was going to be rough out there but it was normal because of the Amihan (cool northeast wind). My mind immediately went to her words about it being more calm. But no matter. We were excited to see the turtles!

True enough, the boat ride was rough. Our things were secure underneath the boat floor. I was warned about my camera getting wet so I made sure it was safe as well. But it sure was rough enough to make Noelle cry. I had to cross over from where I was seated, to where she and my mom were. On that side, it felt like we were being lifted off our seats. It was like a wet and wild roller coaster ride! But really, it was fine. Thank God all it took was a prayer and mommy holding her. And thank God it took only 30-40 minutes to get to the island. Danae had no issues. Gianna was quiet, covering her face, while King held her.

 

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my view from apo island 

Apo Island is beautiful! Only 14 families, if I recall correctly, live there. There are only a couple of resorts. Power is only via generator. They have worked to protect the beautiful sea turtles, so now it is a conservation area. To watch and swim with the turtles, snorkelers are guided by the locals within a roped area. Like the whale sharks in Oslob, the turtles must not be touched. There are gear for rent and if you don’t have companions to watch your stuff, you can also rent a cottage. I was able to go with King and the girls while Gianna was with my mom and our tour guide, yay! It was actually also Noelle’s first time to snorkel!

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“marine turtle area”
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it’s dude crush!!! the picture does not depict its actual size.
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King and Danae witnessed this turtle swim!!! Noelle and I only saw the other one which was huge!

The guides lead a group of 2-3 to the turtles using a rubber tube, which you can hang on to when you’re tired or are a poor swimmer. There were a lot of sea cucumbers, tiny neon blue fish, and light blue starfish (too bad I have no picture!!!). We would have loved to see more turtles and swim with them, but Noelle and I only saw one, while King and Danae saw two. One of the guides said it was because the tide was low and so the turtles were out in the deeper parts. Still, it was one of the coolest experiences.

When we were done, we proceeded to the other side of the island so we could have lunch. It was nothing like our fresh sea food in Manjuyod, but it was okay. Our table was set in Apo Island Beach Resort, where the kids enjoyed the beach. Just be wary of foreigners who sunbathe in the nude, haha. My girls were baffled as to why some people do that in public.

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beautiful rock formations 🙂
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we went up a short set of stairs, to this….
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….and then, paradise!
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beautiful 🙂 

We left Apo island around 2pm because we didn’t want to risk travelling through stronger and bigger waves. Halfway through the boat ride however, we noticed the boat suddenly slowed down. The boat men said something broke. King thought it was the anchor or something inconsequential, but to me it seemed like they were talking about the rudder. I understand some Visayan, but unfortunately not the Visayan for rudder hehe. Everyone was relaxed, while I was observing the boatmen handle the situation. They dropped the anchor enough to create a drag I suppose. I heard a tiny hint of panic in the boatmen’s voices but they followed the instructions of the boat driver. I didn’t understand a word they said. Too deep for me, I guess. I also saw their interaction with the boatman of another pump boat that passed us. I was thinking that it would be good to have a boat near us just in case something bad happened. But our tour guide said nothing. Our boat driver seemed calm and confident. Noelle fell asleep on me even, no crying.

When we got to the port, they “parked” in the area that was a bit far from the shore. The tide had risen and the waves were strong, so it was difficult to get down. When our tour guide asked if we could move, they said they couldn’t because the rudder broke. I knew it!!!    Thank God our boatmen did not just say, “Um the boat is broken. Sorry. We’re basically sitting ducks here until help arrives.” Imagine the horror! But they kept going. They persisted. And they got us to safety. They got skillz, haha. Whoo! What an adventure!

Indeed, persistence pays off! Especially when it’s a matter of life and death. And indeed, the Lord is good. He protects and He saves. 🙂

 

TIPS:

Wear aqua shoes. The “sand” is rocky and painful to walk on barefoot. They have those for rent on the island as you pay for the sanctuary fees, but it’s always better to bring your own. We as well will invest on our own, especially the kids’, life vests.

Bring some cash. Some manangs (ladies) sell magnets, shirts, sarongs, and dresses in the island.

Go on a Wednesday, so you can experience Market Day before you board your boat to Apo Island. They end at 2pm so you’ll miss it if you wait ’til after.

Family, Marriage

Golden!

My in-laws recently celebrated their golden wedding anniversary. First of all, 50 years together? Wow! What an amazing milestone!

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Growing up, I attended the golden wedding anniversary celebrations of my grandparents on both sides. I think I may even have played the piano at one of them. I love that my children will also remember celebrating their grandparents’ anniversary with family and a few friends. They will remember that they got to witness their Dad officiate his parents’ renewal of vows. They will remember the love and appreciation they the grandkids and others expressed for their grandparents. They will remember how their aunts and uncles honored their mom and dad with their messages. They will remember how loved we all made their Wowo Jun and Wowa Remy feel that night. They will remember their grandparents’ legacy of love, a strong marriage, strong family ties, and a committed relationship with God.

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10 grandkids! They sang I WILL as Wowo and Wowa had their anniversary dance. 3rd eldest granddaughter Yelly created and edited a video for them too. 🙂 

 

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With their 5th child and 3rd son King — pastor, officiant, DJ extraordinaire!

 

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My sister-in-law in the US, Leris, with her husband Diego, sent an audio of her message to honor their parents. Each of their children honored them with much love, touching words, and some tears. ❤ 

 

King and his siblings expressed some time last year that they wanted to do something nice for their parents this year. They kind of wanted a repeat of what King organized for their parents 3 years ago, which I was supportive of but absent for, due to a very difficult first trimester of pregnancy. Somebody also suggested a renewal of vows ceremony. To make the long story short, the idea was not at all forgotten, but we were all lacking in the planning department haha. Thank God King and I had some alone time one morning, on our way to a wake, and we had the opportunity to finally talk about the anniversary. It was literally a week away! Things moved pretty quickly from there. King suggested Neil’s Kitchen, we had lunch there and inquired right away. Our first choice, January 21 was booked, so we settled for the next best thing, January 22, a Sunday. We ran it by the siblings, two of whom were in California at that time, and they gave us the go signal. I basically became the very willing coordinator of the party. I guess the hosting skills naturally kicked in haha. Guest list, food, attire, motif were quickly decided. My sister-in-law residing in the US sent teddy bears and candies for our giveaways, through their eldest brother Ronald, who came home the Friday before the event. Thank God for internet. Communication and coordination would have been impossible without it. Good thing I’m married to the officiant too, haha.

 

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Function room of Neil’s Kitchen. By no means was it a grand celebration in terms of scale and cost, but it was a joyous, intimate gathering of family and a few friends, with lots of love, laughter, and encouraging words, good food and cool music.

 

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Prayers for Mommy and Daddy ❤

 

It’s funny because King kept telling me that he wanted a simple party. He didn’t want me to add anything to what was part of the package, basically because he didn’t want me to work and get stressed. Sweet, but no. I needed to personalize it, of course! And what I do is always minimal and always simple anyway, never over the top. But he does know how I lose sleep working on the little details, hehehe. But I insisted. My other sister-in-law also said she was making cut-outs of their parents’ initials. She and her husband are excellent in making decor and props like that.

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I cut out 50s using gold crepe paper and stuck them on the little chalk boards I had at home. I covered my votives with the same paper and tied jute string around them. I put ribbons on the base of little easels. And I bought boxes from a bakers’ supply store and cut the gold covers for the Bible verse print-outs.

 

 

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My other sister-in-law Lanie made the J and R! 🙂

 

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I placed couple shots of daddy and mommy through the years in each table, along with the teddy bear and candy giveaways.

 

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I propped the Bible verses up on the little easels. I put the candy giveaways in the votives. I asked some early bird family members to help cut out hearts from the gold box covers, write thank yous, and tie them around the teddy bears’ necks with jute string. We added some baby’s breath flowers as well. 

 

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The cake! Not the usual, formal anniversary cake, but delicious nonetheless. Can’t go wrong with Mango Bravo. 🙂 

 

To me, it became so much more meaningful when I realized this was something I would not be able to do for my own parents because my dad is no longer with us. My mom and dad can’t celebrate their golden anniversary anymore, though I am certain that they would be if he were alive today. My kids didn’t have the chance to see firsthand my parents’ marriage, how they love and take care of each other. I don’t have the privilege to do something for their 50th. This was my only other opportunity, and I’m so grateful.

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The children, from left to right. Ronald, the eldest. Rammil with his wife Lei on his right. Lanie and her husband Larry on her right. Jay, the youngest and tallest, with wife Weng (not in picture). King with me. Leris and husband Diego (also not in picture).

 

I’m grateful that my in-laws are alive AND are still together after 50 years! I’m grateful that we — especially me, my family, and all of King’s siblings and their families — did not miss or waste this opportunity to thank, honor, and rejoice with them. We all worked together to make the celebration possible. I’m grateful for everyone who tried to come and for those who actually came! Some came from as far as Bulacan. We made Daddy Jun and Mommy Remy very happy! So happy that Mommy Remy was overcome with emotion that she could not say what she wanted to say. She told me yesterday that there are so many stories behind their 50 years, and that one day she will tell them to me. I will wait for that day. King has told me amazing stories about his experiences and about his family. I have no doubt that when my parents-in-law share their stories with me, I will be amazed at God’s faithfulness in their lives.

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FAMILY ❤ 

 

Happy golden wedding anniversary Daddy and Mommy! Thank you for setting the bar high, for inspiring us to have strong, God-honoring marriages, for teaching us to love and prioritize our families. Thank you also for showing us that when we get to your age, we husbands and wives can still serve the Lord together. God bless you both so much. We love you! ❤

 

“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. Exodus 20:12

Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. Romans 13:7

 
Family, TRAVEL

Persistence pays off!

We just came home from our family vacation in the Visayas. We went to celebrate Noelle’s 8th birthday! I chose Dumaguete because I wanted to see the Manjuyod sandbar again with my family. I’d been there with my parents before, like more than a decade ago. The sandbar wasn’t visible anymore at the time we went, but we were able to swim. We also went dolphin watching and the dolphins gave us a show! I only had a regular, non-digital camera then, so I wasn’t able to capture much.

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A day before she turned 8, in Sans Rival. 🙂

 

My mom was the one planning the whole thing (haha, yes I chose the city and dates, but she planned almost everything), and she got our contacts through my cousin. She was told by one tour operator that it was not safe to go to Manjuyod in January because of the Amihan, or the cool northeast wind. My mom says it’s my hardheadedness (I call it my persistence and faith), but I just did not want to believe that we were going to Dumaguete and not be able to enjoy the Maldives of the Philippines. I needed to hear it from the tour guide/driver/boatman myself that it was not safe, before I was going to concede. We kept it in our itinerary.

Thankfully, our other contact assured us that the coastguard would advise the boat operators whether it’s safe to go to sea or not, and that they in turn would advise us. And it was a go! It was definitely safer than our boatride to and from Apo Island (our 3rd day), which we were told would be more calm haha. It was a little windy, but the twenty minute boat ride to the sandbar was uneventful. And the sandbar — massive and beautiful!

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On the boat, with the sandbar in sight. The sandbar is 7km long.

 

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With my mom, Gianna’s first boat ride ever. 🙂 

 

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King and I took a walk on the sand, but didn’t even get to any other end. It was huge! And we had to go back to our kids haha. Gianna didn’t want to leave the shore.

 

We got there at the right time. Good thing I researched and read a blog that said low tide was between 6am and 9am, and that by 10am the sandbar would be submerged already. You could still swim of course, but you would miss the sandbar. So we made sure that our van picked us up around 6am, and we got to Bais by 7am or so.

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the birthday girl happily playing with her little sister 🙂

 

When we got to the Bais port/pier, the boat owner’s wife asked us what we wanted for lunch because the boatmen were going to cook our food for us on the boat! She bought the ingredients for us in the nearby wet market, and in about twenty minutes, we were off to the sandbar. The water was so blue and just beautiful! The kids immediately got off the boat. The boatmen told us that we should just get our picture taken first with the sandbar and go dolphin and whale watching, then come back for lunch and swimming. But then Gianna was so happy on the beach, not even changing into her swimsuit, that we decided to just enjoy the sandbar. We’d gone dolphin watching in Bohol and swimming with the whale sharks in Oslob a few years ago already anyway.

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Gianna dumping sand on the patient starfish haha. Don’t worry, it was not harmed. 🙂 *No starfish was harmed by us on our vacation. We were gentle in handling them and putting them back in the ocean.

 

And our lunch! Grilled pork, sinigang na hipon, grilled okra, huge wild scallops, seaweed, coconut juice in their shell. Soooo good! We ate with our hands so I couldn’t take photos haha. The bonus was those wild oysters in vinegar that we bought from a couple of boatmen. They were selling the whole container for only 300 pesos. We opted to just buy 10 pieces for 100 pesos, because we had too much food already. And it was the highlight of our lunch! Unforgettably yummy!

The best part? Noelle kept saying “best birthday ever!”

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It’s alive!

 

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A tiny starfish family under a shell! I found them when I picked up the shell, but put it back right away. 

 

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Gianna wasn’t afraid to touch, but she was gentle as well. 🙂

 

 

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Beautiful spongy starfish 🙂

 

 

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Our boatman caught a couple of sea dragons and showed us. We tried to take a video in the water but they swam away way too fast! They literally zipped away as soon as manong released them to supposedly let Danae hold them. So he caught another and placed him in a container so we could take a good look. One of the coolest sea creatures ever, with a tail and dragon wings (fins). We put him back of course. 🙂

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Our boatman/diver/cook/boat owner. He found a crab to show the kids. Super cool!

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The tide was coming in at 930am.

 

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I think this was around 1030 to 11am. The sandbar was submerged in water already.

 

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Beautiful Philippines 🙂 

 

If I readily accepted what we were told from the beginning, we would not have been able to experience the beauty of Manjuyod! Persistence with prayer pays off! Faith with wisdom pays off! Thank you Lord for allowing us to enjoy and be captivated by the beauty of your creation. For surrounding us with your angels so we can safely travel on foot and by land, air, and sea. For giving us the opportunity to celebrate and build wonderful memories with our family. We are so grateful.

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Me and my forever travel buddy  ❤

 

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Me and my little sisters hehehe ❤ 

 

Family, FEATURED

Cherished Traditions 2016

A week after Pasko at Pamilya, our Alabang church had its own Christmas traditions event which we call Cherished Traditions. It was a busy day for me as I had to prepare for my DIY corner, do last minute shopping for some candles and Danae’s hoodie, and get some lab test results. Of course when you have 3 kids, things don’t always go the way you would hope. To make the long story short, I was late for call time and I came with a gloomy disposition. I had to ask my DIY partner, Belle, to pray for me. Thank God things started looking up from then on.

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photo credit: Capella Manalang

I was happy with my table for the DIY advent wreath. People got to see and try out different ways to make an advent wreath. I got to share what we do as a family when we light the advent wreath candles every Sunday for 4 Sundays before Christmas day and on Christmas day itself. The other DIY corner for the advent calendar was also super nice! Eden was in charge of that, with her partner Liza. We also do the advent calendar with our kids every Christmas season. Our senior pastor’s wife Shirley Marquez created a beautiful dessert table. She’s always spot on with her creations. We wives learn so much from and are inspired by her. She decorates our center every year too! I did one tablescape in Sta Rosa, but for Alabang Ms Gigi Escosar generously set up 3 tablescapes! They were all beautifully Christmassy!

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Shirley’s dessert table

After our guests were free to go to our DIY corners, check out the tablescapes, have their pictures taken in many picture-worthy areas, and enjoy their Krispy Kreme donut and hot choco, our cool father-daughter hosts Ptr Chico and Nina opened the program with the raffle! The raffle table was full of prizes! We had about 40 winners if I remember correctly. We also had a fun icebreaker, after which our kids gave us the most awesome dance number. Haha. Yes, I love my own. It was a joy and a privilege to teach our kids, the pastors’ kids, to dance. Thanks to the ever talented Luchie, for the song. She was the one who found Mandisa’s Joy Unspeakable. I’m so proud of our kids. They did really well despite the lack of practice, and they gave it their best. Each one of them wanted to make God smile as they danced, and I believe they did. 🙂

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Ptr Chico and Nina Peña (photo credit: Nina). Nina also wrote about the event here. 🙂
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Julio Peña, Noelle Lucero, Bianca Gidor, Ana Marquez, Andrea Marquez, Lovely Ramirez, Danae Lucero, Benj Gidor, Coleen Huang photo credit: Capella Manalang

Ptr Ariel and Ptr Janssen & his family were our speakers. Ptr Ariel delivered such a moving testimony. Truly, he and Shirley lived their message that Christmas is not about us, but about Jesus Christ. When Christmas is supposed to be a time of celebration, they went through the toughest time of their lives when their son Jerome fell ill and passed away 13 Christmases ago. Despite the painful memories, they still choose to celebrate every Christmas because it is Jesus they celebrate. Jesus is the point of every Christmas tradition. Ptr Ariel shared the why of Christmas traditions. The Morados family shared the how, the message they also shared in Pasko at Pamilya. 

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Ptr Ariel Marquez (photo credit: Nina Peña)
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Ptr Janssen, Ging and Andee Morados

The whole Huang family rendered us a lovely song. It was their first time to perform together, and we all went AWWWWW when we heard their youngest Coleen’s beautiful voice. I made sure our dance crew was there to support their fellow dancer. Christmas is love. Jesus is love. It was like magic. Sigh. From the parents to each of their children, they are just gifted. ❤

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The Huangs

Somewhere in between, they also showed our kids’ video, where they share about their favorite traditions and what impact it makes on them. To end the event, we gave each guest a really nice giveaway and they called back the dancers. It was supposed to be a celebration with everybody dancing, but I guess they enjoyed just watching the kids haha.

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Our comms team is super talented. They made our shoots easy and enjoyable, the photos and videos so beautiful! I got so kilig seeing my creation on our invitaion and tickets heehee. I didn’t know about it. We also shot DIY videos that were shown on screens beside our DIY table. 🙂
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Got to share some loved recipes at home in 2014. Got to get creative with plating too. 🙂

Cherished Traditions is always something we wives look forward to and work together to bring to others. Thanks to our leader Shirley who has imparted so much to us about the love of God, His love for people, about generosity, about love for family, being deliberate in making memories with our family, discipling our children and passing on our values and traditions to our children. Thanks to her leadership and Maryanne’s, and to each wife’s valuable contribution on the scene and behind, it was another fruitful event. I am just so grateful that I get to be a part of it. Things I never imagined I would be doing, they’ve given me the opportunity to. Plus it’s always a joy! It never feels like work. The motivation is always the desire to honor God, to serve and be generous. Because each one has that mindset, everyone works well together. I’m so thankful that that is the spirit I am surrounded by. Unity. Love. Servant leadership. Thank you, my sisters. It truly is an honor serving the Lord with you. ❤

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South Hub Pastors’ Wives ❤ Top row, from left to right: Eden Ramirez, She Ramirez, Aileen Gidor, Maryanne Peña,  Shirley Marquez, Malou Oaman, Phoebe Lucero, Ging Morados, Liza Divierte, Thine Canda ❤ Bottom row, from left to right: Belle Villanueva, Gigi Escosar, Luchie Huang, Lea Santos. Photot credit: Nina Peña 
Family, My Kids, Parenting

We Can’t Afford It

Before the school year ended, our family was faced with a dilemma. Do we go back to homeschooling for both girls or do we put them both in regular school? Or should we keep one in regular school and keep the other in homeschool?

Our original plan was actually to put both girls in Danae’s school, but we were suddenly apprehensive about the cost due to certain changes that the school made. I told the girls that we may not be able to afford it. But Danae really wanted to stay in her school. She said if she had no choice then she would agree to homeschooling again. Noelle said she was fine with continuing homeschooling. Perhaps I was not convinced of that plan, that I would constantly check the girls about what they thought about it. I would go back and forth, thinking and asking God what would be best for our girls.

I was leaning towards homeschooling them both again (with the help of a teacher), but no matter how hard I tried to convince Danae, she would not budge. Even when she would recall hurtful situations that happened in school and cry while telling me, she still insisted that she wanted to stay. She believes that she learns better there. Noelle started out excited about homeschooling again, but then slowly seemed indifferent. One morning, she quietly told me how she really felt — she wanted to go to Danae’s school! She was willing to homeschool only because we could not afford to put her in regular school.

That broke my heart. I really cried to God and to King. I did not want to put the burden on my daughter about what we can or cannot afford. She should not have to sacrifice for us. That is our job as her parents, to make sacrifices in order to give her and her sisters the best that we can possibly give. That pushed us to rethink and reorganize.

As I was talking to one of my mentors about this, she told me that they never tell their kids that they can’t afford something. That’s where I realized my mistake. Even though I want my children to be aware of the reality of expenses and I don’t want them to grow up feeling entitled, I should never say the words “we can’t afford.” I realized that telling them we can’t afford something tells them that it is useless to dream, that some things are just not possible for them. Telling them that sends the message that we are relying on our own capacity and looking at ourselves as the source. Instead, like what my husband always does, I should encourage them to pray and ask God. I should help them believe that God is able, that God owns all, that God is good, that God knows and gives best to His children.

Though it may be true that we cannot afford all things, I do not have to burden my children with that fact. I must encourage them with the truth that with God, all things are possible. We do our part as parents, and we wait on God and watch Him prove Himself faithful.

This school year, they are both going to The Sycamore woohooo! Not because we can afford it, but because we believe that God will provide. However, they also know that we take it a year at a time. Next year may be different, not because we can’t afford it, but because their needs may be different. We have been pleased with the regular school set up of The Sycamore (formerly 360 Studio) because basically it is homeschool away from home and we have been happy with the character building and the disciplines Danae has learned, but we do not close our doors on homeschooling yet. The Lord knows best and we will submit to His will for our children. 🙂

 

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26

 

Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? Luke 12:24-26

 
Taste and see that the Lord is good;
    blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
Fear the Lord, you his holy people,
    for those who fear him lack nothing.
The lions may grow weak and hungry,
    but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. Psalm 34:8-10