Happy Anniversary to us!

One year since lockdown. One year since our movements became limited. One year since our whole world changed. What have I learned?

A few things, actually.

We can endure. I saw pictures I posted on social media exactly a year ago, saying that I would miss our couples group for a month because (I don’t even remember) Quarantine was supposed to last for only 1 month. Imagine that. Well, no, you don’t have to imagine. You lived it, just like I did. Quarantine got extended and extended and extended until….here we are. Still in Quarantine.

But we are alive, healthy, and enduring. We may have lost loved ones, lost co-workers, lost jobs, experienced pay cuts, experienced unexpected changes, suffered much anxiety, but we are still here. Some surviving, to be honest, but many, thriving – new jobs, new businesses, new income, new skills, new experiences, engagements and weddings, babies, new ministry opportunities, new things to look forward to. All by the grace of our good God.

We lost, but we also gained. It may have taken a while to realize, but really, there was much we gained from all this. Quality AND quantity time with our loved ones. Conversations. Fun together, in the confines of our home, with minimal expense. Restored relationships. Growth of relationships. The urgency to find an outlet for stress, or find someone to talk to, or seek help and counsel. Empathy, and the need to check on one another. Perspective. Focus. What is essential and what is not. What holds value and what does not. The ability to shift and do what is needed. Skills we thought we could not learn. Old skills relearned and developed even more. Appreciation for people and services that we have taken for granted. A more fervent prayer life. A closer look at our own heart, our own character. The push to make lifestyle changes. Better health. Better hygiene and sanitizing habits. Awareness. Compassion for others. And much more that I probably can’t think of, but many have experienced.

Online Distance Learning is a gift. Our older girls transitioned fairly well from homeschooling to regular school last year. Our youngest started regular school and did amazingly well also last year. And school year 2020 was the year they were all going to be in the same regular school. But due to the pandemic, online distance learning happened. For an ex-homeschooling mom but still a believer in homeschooling, I realized that, for me, this is the best marriage of regular school and home school. My kids are home, while the school and the awesome teachers are in charge of teaching them! And to our surprise, the girls are doing quite well. They complain at times, but they attend their classes and do their work responsibly. More on this in another blog.

God is my Healer and Protector. Nothing new, but God just showed me again how He takes care of me and my family. I unknowingly had dengue fever, (which just reinforced my hatred for mosquitoes) and suffered extreme weakness, headache, bloatedness, nausea, body pains, and rashes for a week right through New Year. I did not get back to complete normalcy, in terms of my appetite and physical strength, until 3 weeks after the onset of my fever. But I did not need confinement as my blood test, taken on the tenth day of sickness, showed I had adequate platelets. I am alive and well today. And more importantly, no other person in our household got dengue!!! Thank you Lord!

God’s timing is perfect. Again, nothing new, but just like our trip to Baguio last year right before lockdown, our only trips with the kids during this pandemic were timed perfectly. We got to enjoy a private resort in Calamba early this year, to belatedly celebrate Noelle’s birthday, as I was still sick on her actual birthday. I just got well that week and once we decided to book, it was all grace from there. Our schedules, our budget…..All I can say is God’s favor was so evident. The same is oh so true for our recent trip to Batangas. It was our first visit to the beach after 1 year and 9 months! And the private place we stayed at was wonderful! Lo and behold, they announced again today that minors and seniors are to stay indoors. Such grace that our children were able to enjoy a much needed vacation, right before another lockdown!

Paulo’s Place in Calamba
Tali Vacation Home in Nasugbu

Quantity time is NOT quality time. I cannot stress this enough. Presence does not always equate to connection. Very easily we can be present in the body, but absent in the mind and heart. Conversations are so so so important. Talking AND listening, even when we think what is being said is lame or uninteresting or senseless or different from our own opinions. Pause. Make eye contact. Pay attention. Respond. Share from our end as well. Remember that when we listen, the person talking to us feels loved and validated. When we talk, not only does the person we’re sharing stories and silly jokes with feel valued and trusted, but we are able to release and breathe.

Lunch date ❤️

God’s plans prevail. Whether we think we can or cannot, whether we believe in our own skills or not, whether confidently or with fear and trembling. When God wants to include us in His plans, He will give us the opportunity to be part of it. I like writing more than speaking mainly because it’s easier to edit myself and there is less pressure because I do not see the audience 😂. But I enjoy speaking to a group of women in person, albeit always nervously, so much more than recording myself on video. Never did I imagine that I would be part of any video or any teaching on camera, because CRINGE….. But when God wants me there, to teach, I am compelled to say yes. I did say no to hosting though hahaha. Because I know that is so not in my wheelhouse. I don’t have my husband’s energy. 😂 Although appearing on video is waaaaay out of my comfort zone, teaching is teaching. It is always a privilege. Any part in advancing God’s Kingdom is a privilege. We just trust and obey. Because He is worthy.

Couples devo ❤️

Here’s hoping this doesn’t last another year, but even if it does, let’s keep the attitude of gratitude. Let’s be learners. And let’s flow with the rhythm of God’s grace. 💙

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

2 Corinthians 12:9

It’s Been A Year

It’s the end of September. It’s been a year since I experienced my last major health scare. I’m not a worry wart. I get panicked and stressed at times but I don’t think I’m the type who obsesses about the what-ifs and the oh-nos. It might be my personality, yes, but it’s also because I have God to talk to and depend on, upon whom I can cast my cares. He dispenses me with the peace and calm that I need.

So when I felt a lump in my breast around the time of my birthday last year, I did not really panic. I got surprised to suddenly find it, like from not noticing anything to feeling how hard and big it was, of course I was surprised. But there were no water works. I prayed, looked it up (on the net hehehe), hoped for a non-scary explanation. I also asked certain people for advice. I set an appointment with my OB-GYN.

However, it took a while before I was able to see my doctor because of conflicts of schedules — hers and mine. I was able to see her over a month later. She told me that I had a tumor that needed to be checked. Mammogram and ultrasound. Ugh. I have always feared the mammogram because I heard it was painful. I tried to get it off the table but I obeyed anyway because she insisted. I trust her judgment. She has gotten me through 2 pregnancies, 2 births, and 1 case of pre-eclampsia severe.

So by early September, King and I headed to the hospital to get my tests done. I was super nervous because I hate pain. I have, in my expert opinion about myself 😂, very low tolerance for pain. I was preparing for the worst squeezing of my life, but a part of me was also hopeful that new mammogram tech would not be as painful anymore.

God’s grace was so evident that day. All the nurses were nice and friendly and gentle. The facility was excellent and comfortable (only women were allowed inside the area where I had to change into a pink gown). And to my surprise, the mammogram was not painful!!!!! A tad uncomfortable because of positioning and holding still, but painless and quite quick. I was overjoyed! The ultrasound was okay too, until the sonologist said she would recommend a biopsy.

Okay. Biopsy. This was when the questions started rolling in because we had decisions to make. Is there reason to rush? Should I have it done now, when King is scheduled to leave the country in two weeks? Can I wait til after he gets back, which is the last day of October? If I get it done now and the biopsy says it’s malignant, can I endure surgery and recovery without my husband? Or can I get surgery after he gets back? What about the kids and their daily school schedules — 3 kids, 2 different schools, 1 driver/yaya/P.A./tutor (AKA me)? My mind was on surgery, not even on chemo or other treatments. And I wanted King to take his trip. I knew that if he really needed to stay, he would absolutely give it up, but there was no desire for me to keep him from the God-given opportunity to attend his conference in the U.S. and visit his sister whom he hadn’t seen for a decade or so. The struggle was immense. We asked God for wisdom.

We were kind of okay already with the idea of waiting til November, but after talking to a doctor friend, my aunt who’s a pedia, and finally my cousin who’s an oncologist, we decided to have the biopsy done asap. They said with urgency, to not wait. We saw a breast surgeon.

What I kept asking God at that time was for Him to enable me to endure what I needed to go through. I would cry at times but I buckled up for the possibilities. Not so I could look or feel strong, but because I needed my mind prepared, so that I could deal with it already and get on with life. I used my head, and my emotions weren’t overwhelming me……yet. King was kind of quiet that week. I was the one reassuring him, and I was the one thinking of the game plan. Then at one point, I got upset with him for not helping me think and plan. His response made me stop in my tracks: “I don’t want to plan because I want to wait on the Lord.”

There I was, planning, because I unwittingly just accepted what was said to me about my lump — that there is a very high possibility it is malignant. I was operating on the assumption that I would be needing that, let me say more complicated lumpectomy, and so I would need to get my clearances in order, and we would have to move quickly so that King would still be around while I was in the operating room, and he could be around for the first 2 days of my recovery. I thought the faith part was relying on God to align the schedules of my clearances, the schedule of the surgeon, the availability of a hospital room, and the provision. It wasn’t.

The biopsy went really well. I was also very nervous, but the nurses explained it clearly to me. It prepared me for what to expect, so much so that when I felt a small pinch right before the doctor started extracting the tissue samples, I knew to sound the alarm. She stopped and injected me with more anesthesia. She did the biopsy excellently. No pain, just a little bit loud. It was ultrasound-guided, and I only took one peek while she was enthusiastically showing me what she was doing. I closed my eyes the rest of the time 😂. Though there was pain afterwards, I only had to take 1 arcoxia that day and I think the next day. I was in the hospital and diagnostics center by Wednesday to secure my clearance for possible surgery.

But the few days leading up to the biopsy and also immediately after, were when my emotions started surfacing. There was so much fear. I was not (am not) afraid to die because I am sure that my name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. I was afraid, however, of what I, and my family, might have to endure while I am still alive. And I was so sad for my husband and kids, imagining how sad or angry they would be if they had lost me too soon. I cried out to God. For me. For my family. My mom should not have to bury me. My kids should be able to enjoy and rely on their mother while they are young. My husband and I want to grow old together. I asked close family and friends to pray.

There was a shift at that time too. A wonderful thing that happens in marriage. While I was the one feeling down, King was the one who had his faith way up. He said he did not want to accept it and he was claiming, declaring my healing. He constantly encouraged me, you know with his happy, excited face. I so wanted to believe him. I believed that God is able to heal, but there was a part of me that was afraid to wholeheartedly claim my own healing. Like yes, God heals, but will He heal me? He is sovereign and I submit to His will. And whatever He does or allows to happen to me, I will receive, by His grace. Which is why there was a struggle in my heart. I didn’t know what His will was for me. You’d think this would be easy-peasy for me since God has saved me once before. But no, it was still easier to believe God for His enabling power than to believe Him for my healing.

That 5-day wait for my results was emotionally tough for me. But it was also within those 5 days that God spoke to me. He revealed a sin that I needed to repent of. He reminded me of my own words to myself. There had been times I had said that I will die early. Why? That might be for another blog. 😬 I believe that the tongue has the power of life and death. I know this so well. I teach it to my kids all the time. And God showed me that I had been speaking death to myself. It was such a revelation to me! I repented and somehow God enabled me to speak life and claim, with conviction, healing for myself. This was the faith God wanted me to exercise. 

And not a moment too soon. If I remember correctly, it was Friday, the day before I got my results. I so needed the courage to declare, out loud, that my tumor is benign! Then my friend and leader sent me these verses on Saturday morning. Nehemiah 8:10-12.

10 And Nehemiah[b] continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!”

11 And the Levites, too, quieted the people, telling them, “Hush! Don’t weep! For this is a sacred day.” 12 So the people went away to eat and drink at a festive meal, to share gifts of food, and to celebrate with great joy because they had heard God’s words and understood them.

I was praying/crying, so encouraged by this! God was telling me not to worry! Hush, don’t weep!!!! This is a sacred day! As an act of faith, I asked my girls what they wanted us to bring home from the hospital. I told them that we would celebrate!!!! I asked them to pray for me. Noelle told me with such assurance that I was going to be okay. I thanked the Lord my children were in faith for me as well.

 

McDo is life 😂

 

We got to the hospital, all nervous and in a rush because I misunderstood our appointment and King had a teaching in church. Thank God we got there on time. And whaddaya know….. the doctor told us that my tumor is indeed BENNNNNIIIIIIIIIIIGGGGGGGNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!!! She said some other things too, but we wanted to rejoice in this win!!! When we got to the car, I could not help but bawl like a baby. I kept telling King that God saved me. He saved me!!! When we regained our composure, we ate some Japanese to celebrate! We had a feast!!! 

 

That afternoon, I asked God for a specific Word. His specific, personal Word for me. He gave me Isaiah 46. I was iffy with the first few verses, but my eyes started welling up as I reached verse 3.

Wow. I hold on to God’s promise of a long life, His promise of caring for me, carrying me, and saving me. It’s been a year. God is faithful. I am still here and I will grow old with King. We will serve the Lord together for many years to come. I will enjoy my family. I will live through this pandemic and beyond. I will go back to Japan. I will travel to Switzerland and other awesome places. I will see the Northern Lights in Norway. I will walk where Jesus walked in Israel. I will see my girls thrive and live their lives honoring and serving God through their talents and their profession. I will see my girls get married to godly, honorable men, and I will enjoy my lovely, God-fearing grandchildren. In Jesus’ holy and mighty name. Say a big amen for me, friends. ❤ 

At the end of each day….

I appreciate the devotions that our church puts out daily, and though I don’t get to join them regularly, there’s so much to gain from it. There’s the Word, the encouraging stories, the sense of community, the prayer time. Then there are also gems from the sharers.

Yesterday the focus was Psalm 90:12 —Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom. What struck me was one of the things that Ptr Carlo said. At the end of the day, he would ask himself if he spent quality time with his son, if he had their heart to heart talk.

What wisdom. How many of us actually think about how we spent our day, before we go to bed? How many of us actually recount the events of the day in terms of quality time spent with our family, especially in this pandemic where everyone is home all. the. time.?

It’s quite easy to think that since we are all home, we are spending quantity AND quality time with one another. On the contrary, we become less intentional about doing things together because we feel we are in close proximity to each other. We become complacent. We talk less. Or we settle for small talk. We fill our days with activities, work so we can feel productive, connect with others online, but we miss out on our personal connections at home.

We must know that one can still feel alone, despite the presence of family around. We must know that our physical presence is good, but it is not enough. We must be emotionally and mentally present. Parents to children, children to parents, siblings to siblings, spouse to spouse. We must engage. Be interested. Eye contact. Listen with our hearts.

At the end of each day, let’s not just look at what we have accomplished. Let’s ask ourselves the more important questions. Did I really spend time with my loved one/s today? Did I have meaningful conversations with them? Did I laugh with them? Did I help them when they needed me? Did I make them feel loved? Did I speak life? Did I listen? Did I pray for or with them?

Lord, teach us to number our days. Teach us to be wise with the use of our time everyday. Help us not to neglect our families. We feel the stress that this pandemic brings, but grant us the extra extra extra grace we need to nurture our most precious relationships, while also caring for our own needs and fulfilling our duties at home, at work, and in ministry. 🙏❤️

Tito Panser, the beloved!

Tito Panser. I dont know anyone else named Panser, or Fruspambliser for that matter. So when people say his name, I automatically know who they mean. He was someone everyone knew and someone everybody was fond of. Maybe it was his charisma, maybe his consistent smile. Maybe it was his gusto, or his singing, or his ahoo! He was always the life of the party. Danae said this as well when she learned that Wowo Panser was heading to heaven soon. She said our family parties won’t be the same. How painfully true. He brought that joy and light to all our gatherings, and it isn’t a surprise that he was the same in church and everywhere else.

To me though, he was Tito Panser who loved me. You see, I grew up with his daughters. I’m the only girl in my family and I’m so blessed to have my cousins, Ate Sol, Mai, and Dee, as my sisters. I would sleep over in their home often, and he, and Tita Monette of course, always welcomed me. It was like I wasn’t a visitor, as I was privy to some things, like his hair hehehe. And in the times that I could not sleep and had to go home in the middle of the night, I did not hear any complaint or reprimand, only laughter. Like it wasn’t new. Because it happened a few times hahaha. A tad inconvenient, but no biggie since we live only a couple of blocks away.

As a kid, I didn’t really like going to church, much less wake up early for it, but I knew that if I slept over on a Saturday in their home, Sunday morning would mean church. That was a non-negotiable. They were consistent. They were the family I respected and looked up to when it came to Christianity. Not perfect, but consistent and committed in serving the Lord. And when I reached a phase in my life that wasn’t ideal or pleasant (to put it mildly), they remained loving and accepting towards me. They let me stay an entire summer, the ultimate sleepover, in their home, to help my parents deal with me. They never made me feel like I was a bad seed. Now I understand how Jesus enabled them to do that, despite my being….me. I am certain they prayed for me and my family, and that they believed in the power of the Lord to change what needed to be changed….which was of course, me. 😂

Fast forward to my twenties when I started following Christ, I got engaged, and it was a no brainer to ask him and tita to be one of our prinicipal sponsors. I’d seen plenty of them as a married couple — they loved God, they served in church together. I love what Kuya Nando said in his eulogy, that wisdom was in Tito Panser’s counsel. In his and tita Monette’s. They helped many people in their marriages, in their family life, and in their walk with God. I also saw how they took care of each other, and how tito Panser pampered tita Monette and the girls. I knew him as a man who was strict with the budget, but always included pampering in the budget! He loooooved his family. He was a sweet husband, and also a super sweet dad to the girls — as in the kissing, hugging and the hand-holding kind of dad even to his adult daughters. ❤️

👩‍❤️‍👨

When the grandchildren came, he was the loving grandpa to Ate Sol’s boys and wowo Panser to my girls. He showered us with hugs and kisses when we saw each other. My childhood friends, the Tumangans included of course, and I hold a Happy Birthday Jesus Party for our kids every December. There was this one year that we could not have it at home because I’d just given birth and my mom was recovering from a stroke, so the next best venue was the Tumangans’! And tito Panser was never one to just sit back. He got involved. He and tita welcomed us all in their home, ate with us, laughed with us, watched us play games. He even shared about Jesus and our value as God’s children that evening.

❤️

And of course, he did his usual — he made all the kids line up so he could give them Christmas money. Another thing that was consistent about him. He did this every Christmas since I was young. It only stopped I think when I started having kids hahaha. The Christmas money started going to them.

❤️

Noelle said that Wowo Panser lived a good life, and that he was generous. Isn’t that the truth. I remember last Christmas, when the church staff held a party for our EGSI team (our helpers in church), Tito Panser showed up. Of course he did! And he made all of them line up with their kids, to give them their Christmas love gifts. I was a bit surprised but also not that surprised. That’s just how he was. He blessed people and was always ready to help. His generosity extended to others, not just to family.

These are my personal photos, still in my phone actually. Dec 2019.
I didn’t know I would need it for this post.
I guess that just really shows how I admired and appreciated Tito Panser for what he did. ❤️

But like I said, he was a man who always worked with a budget. Which means he was always intentional about his generosity. He did not do it on a whim, but he joyfully and lovingly planned and set aside finances for it. I love what Ptr A said about him being a kingdom-minded guy. I believe the way he gave truly showed that. The way he lived showed it too — always to the glory of the Lord.

❤️

The Word shared in the memorial service was very comforting and just plain beautiful. Psalm 116:15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints (or faithful servants, in another version). Indeed, tito Panser was one of God’s faithful servants. He lived fully here on earth, worshipping God and telling everyone he could about Jesus, and God gladly, giddily, happily welcomed him home. This gives me much joy, especially when Mai told me that the vision she received was of her dad dancing before the Lord. What an awesome picture! ❤️

You will always be remembered, our beloved Tito Panser! Even Gianna asked me for your photos so she won’t forget. I have many, old and new. From our yearly vacations together in Batangas and in Baguio, to family parties, and church events. She still prays that you will be safe in heaven, which of course you are. 😂 It just goes to show the impact you made even in a young child. Since my dad, their wowo, passed away before Danae turned two, you were the wowo (here in the South) who was a consistent figure in the girls’ lives. Thank you for your love and generosity, and your example of faith. We love you! We love your whole family! ❤️

🙏❤️

Online Distance Learning with Gianna

We started school two weeks ago and I’ve been on standby for whatever the kids need. One will ask for her hydro flask or a bowl or some alcohol. Another will ask for anolyte or her hydro. But mostly it’s the little one who asks for anything and everything — “mooooom, I need my so and so book or so and so notebook or water or fita or my headphones.” But the best one is “mooooom, stay with me.” I’m not the driver anymore. I’m the personal assistant. 🤦🏻‍♀️

A few days ago, their teacher sent a Bible verse for homeroom and I read it to Gianna that morning. Whoever has patience has great understanding. Prov 14:29. And then they had a lesson on the fruit of the Spirit that afternoon. So when Gianna was getting angry about something that evening, I reminded her of the verse and the fruit of the Spirit. She suddenly calmed down and said “Yeah, self-control. I need an apple.” 😂😂😂

It’s been raining hard lately and the other day, their teacher was talking about it and reminding the kids to stay inside and stay dry. I heard Gianna suddenly interrupt her teacher, unmuting herself without anyone telling her to or asking her for a comment, and say “but teacher, we had a leak yesterday….in our living room.” I giggled because it was such an overshare! I was a few meters away so I didn’t see faces, but I heard the awkwardness in her teacher’s voice. What made it worse was when teacher asked her if everything is okay now, she said “yeah, we had buckets.” Hahahahha. It was only one plastic container catching one leak, not one bucket or multiple buckets. I wanted to explain and defend myself to her class!!! Hahaha. But c’est la vie. At least I have another story for Funny Fridays. 😂

Remembering God’s Providence

We had our couples victory group meeting last week, online of course, and King asked us, as a warm-up for our discussion, about our favorite memory before the pandemic. Funny that I didn’t know he would ask that question and that he would give his answer. But he was absolutely right. Our favorite memory before the pandemic was our trip to Baguio!!!

In February, a childhood friend of my mom’s based in the US came to visit, and we planned to bring her somewhere special. We needed to work around everybody’s schedules, including hers, so plans could not be finalized right away. Barely three weeks before her flight back home, I read an article about nice vacation homes in Baguio. One of the homes belonged to an old friend of ours, and the pictures were lovely!!! I thought it perfect for a short get-away. I immediately ran this by King and my mom. With their approval and having pinpointed the only dates good for all of us (kids had important school activities, and ballet rehearsals and their recital), I checked the available dates on airbnb. Would you believe that all the dates in the first half of March were booked solid, except for the dates that we needed??? I tried booking online, and I tried bugging King at work so he could book ASAP, but King was busy and I, having limited tech skills, could not successfully do it. I had to directly contact our friend! Hahaha. He was so kind and gracious. We got the booking!

We stayed in the guest suite,
below the main house.
Entrance through the porch on the left side. Click here for more info. 😊
The porch, overlooking the fire pit. 😊
Tiny living never looked this good! My friends are talented — woodwork and design, plus use of actual wood of the old house! 👏 👏 👏
Blessed indeed! 💛
Smores and hotdogs at the fire pit!
Erly, the awesome caretaker, made us a fire.
Iron bbq skewers were provided too! 🥖🔥

It was my mom’s first time to go back to Baguio since 2006, when my dad was still with us. My mom’s friend’s last time there was probably way back in the 80s. Fortunately for us, we’d visited in 2018 with friends, but that was also our first since 2006.

A dessert place in John Hay, 2018. 🍰

There were news reports about the Corona Virus in Manila already, there was shortage of alcohol in stores in Manila, they cancelled the Panagbenga festival in Baguio, but for some reason we were not fazed. We were already pretty vigilant (well I was, at least) with washing hands and making sure the kids did too, and trigger-spraying alchohol on our hands after each time we touched anything. We just made sure we did the same while in Baguio. We also bought our stock of alcohol bottles, since there seemed to be no shortage there. Masks were not yet compulsory then, but we spent most of our time outdoors anyway. There were few people out, we thought it was great! Even Burnham Park wasn’t that crowded. It was either there weren’t a lot of tourists or people were opting to stay indoors because of the virus. We didn’t really know for sure.

We went biking in burnham park! I actually wanted to do the boating thing but the kids preferred this. 🚲
We were the only customers in tree top adventure. In fact, the guy we talked to
told us that it’s a good thing we came so they could keep it open. They were already closed by the time we exited. What timing!
The little one was too little for the “ride” so she and daddy hiked together. 🤗
This was after they went roller skating
(well the two younger ones tried 😂),
still in Burnham Park. They like climbing trees. 😊
At Baguio Botanical Garden 🐘
At Baguio Botanical 🌻
Lunch at Lemon & Olives
before heading down to Manila. 🍋

One of our kids, to be honest, was concerned about school clearance week, so when they announced that classes were suspended, I think on Tuesday, March 10th, I saw it as a favor. She didn’t have to worry about not completing her clearance, though in my opinion, she really had nothing to worry about. Little did we know that Community Quarantine would be announced shortly after.

We got back to Manila late Wednesday evening. That was the last time the kids were out of the house because minors and seniors were instructed to stay home. Well, you know the story. We are still in quarantine today, after 4 long months.

At Jollibee somewhere on TPLEX. Last meal outside our home, nearly 5 months ago 😱

Which is why I really thank the Lord that He allowed us to have that 3-day, 2-night trip to Baguio. Perhaps we were wishful thinking that the virus would not spread as much as it has in the Philippines or in denial that the problem would last as long as it has in the whole world. But who knew?! Who knew how much impact it would make in our lives? Who knew that it would usher us into a new normal? Who knew that it would challenge our habits and way of living?

Who knew that three Sundays before our trip was the last time we’d attend an actual Sunday service as a family because the two Sundays before our trip were spent on the girls’ ballet general rehearsal and recital? Who knew that Noelle’s birthday in January was our last time to go up to Tagaytay (due to Taal’s activity AND the quarantine)? Who knew that our trip to Baguio would be the last time we’d go out, eat out as a family? Last time to explore new places? Last time to sit at Jollibee and enjoy some chicken joy and burger steak? Last time to ride the car as a family??? Who knew that that would be the last vacation we’d be taking this year? It’s only half the year, I know, but Covid is too close and too real. No trips for the rest of 2020.

But I saw the providence of God. The timing of it all — our available dates, our accommodations, home the day covid was declared a pandemic, home before the quarantine. We got to build precious memories with the family, precious memories in a beautiful house in a beautiful city, and everybody stayed healthy. My tita even got to fly back home to the US, days later, without a hitch. (Well, almost. There’s a funny story attached to that, but one that might be better kept among ourselves.) All by the hand of God, I truly believe.

This week, I and a bunch of friends were supposed to go on a trip outside the country — my very first without family. While it is sad that it didn’t push through (I’d already bought my tickets), it was wise to cancel it even months before we knew we would still be in quarantine (modified enhanced community quarantine at that) today. Once again, the providence of God.

In a season of tremendous uncertainty, unexpected happenings, difficult transitions, and heavy losses, it’s good to remember the better times, our better times. To listen to other people’s stories and see God’s faithfulness in their lives too. To look back at what God has done before, so we can endure, remain grateful and trust in what He is doing now, and look forward to what He will do again. Remembering keeps our hope alive.

I imagine all of us around a bonfire, sharing stories, singing songs, lifting each other up, being there for one another. My prayer is that each one of us receive and recognize the abundant grace of God at work in our day-to-day. He is in the details, as well as in the big picture. My prayer is that we carry each other through prayer and encouragement, and rejoice together when we overcome. God is never not in control and He always takes care of His children. ❤️

The Lord is righteous in all his ways
and faithful in all he does. Psalm 145:17

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

Food, Glorious Food!

Everyone seems to be cooking more during this pandemic, and I am no exception. I’ve been inspired to cook more times in the last 3 months than the entire year of 2019 😂. Some firsts for me to try were bibimbap and kimchi rice, and some pastas. I don’t always have the complete list of ingredients, so I like to improvise. I like to use left overs, and I get inspired to make dishes out of them.

I was inspired to make lasagna last week because my lasagna noodles were about to expire. I was going to use my newly purchased italian sausage along with my ground beef, but then I saw pepperoni in the freezer and mechado (beef stew in tomato sauce) in the fridge. I decided to chop them up and mix them in with the ground beef to make the meat sauce. It was a hit!

But my meat mixture was just enough for half the box of noodles, so there were some left. My mistake cooking the whole box! Anyway, I think the following night was taco night, and of course there were leftovers from that too. And so in the next few days, I looked up some recipes so that my cooked lasagna noodles wouldn’t go to waste. I decided to make lasagna roll ups! I made meat sauce using left over taco meat filling and tomato sauce. And then I filled the lasagna noodles with my improvised bechamel (left over from the lasagna), and vivo gourmet’s fresh, delicious pesto sauce before rolling them up. I placed the sauce in the bowl first, then the rolled up lasagna, then I put more pesto and cheese on top, and then baked it. It was pretty good!

Soft tacos, leftovers from taco night!
Yummy pesto and bechamel, before rolling the lasagna up 🙂
Pesto lasagna roll up on taco meat sauce 😋

To finish off all the left over noodles and use more of the yummy pesto, I made roll ups again. I filled the noodles with cheesier bechamel sauce and chunks of mozzarella, and placed the roll ups on pesto sauce. Everyone liked it too, but I think I’ll make it with slices of cooked chicken next time. If only I had leftover chicken! 😂

Before baking….
Baked! 😋

I really believe that we get creative when we are left in a tight spot. We have all experienced pay cuts, job cuts, halts in the business. So we have been more mindful to make do with what we have. We have been getting more creative, stretching our ingredients to make more meals, to stretch our budgets. Now more than ever, we reuse and recycle, to minimize waste. More and more people are growing their own food too.

Kangkong from our yard!

I salute every Filipino who has cried his/her eyes out and who has lost sleep over the effects of this pandemic, and yet has chosen to get up on his/her feet and keep moving forward! You create opportunities for yourself to help your family! I salute you for rolling with the punches, for being willing to sacrifice just a little bit more, to tighten your belts just a little bit longer. I salute you for making the most out of a terrible situation, even extending help to those in need while you are also in need. I salute you for smiling, laughing through all the uncertainty, and encouraging others to keep praying. I salute you for believing still that God is good, that He is in control, and He will save us from this crisis.

May the Lord bless us and sustain us, and may His peace that transcends all understanding guard our hearts from worry. And as we grow in creativity and resilience, may joy and gratitude in our hearts grow as well. ❤️

Mirror, mirror….

In our home, King and I always remind our daughters that the tongue has the power of life and death. God knows we struggle with this too, but it’s easier to point it out when we hear our kids saying negative words. Story of our parenting lives right? Practice what you preach. Preach what you practice. Note to self! 😂

Anyway, a few days ago, Danae had a stomach ache and even after treating it (with water, fruits, veggies, erce flora, and prayers) she still kept complaining about the pain. Every time she’d come out of her room or come into our room, she’d say “ow my tummy hurts.” I felt bad for her, but declaring that her tummy hurt over and over again didn’t seem to help (her OR me 😂). “How about say I am healed in Jesus’ name?” She did, every time I reminded her.

I believe there is a shift in our mind set when there is a shift in our declarations. Of course it works the other way around too — change mind set first, then declarations/words/actions change. But sometimes our minds are clouded, by our emotions, or when our senses are disturbed and we experience pain. Instead of giving in to it, we fight by moving in the opposite spirit. Instead of focusing on the pain or the problem, we declare faith. We declare healing. We declare the goodness and power of God.

Speak life to your own situation. Speak life to yourself.

The next day, Danae came to me and said she felt better!

Little did I know that the littlest one would pick this up as well. I was feeling down the other day. The humid weather triggered my allergies and despite meds, I was sneezy, teary, and my head was heavy all day. At bedtime, while I already had my eyes closed, Gianna spoke. “Are you healed, mommy?” Always so compassionate towards me. I didn’t want to sound negative or faithless, so I told her “almost.” That apparently was not good enough because she told me, “Say I am healed, mommy.” She made me smile. I did as she asked and I thanked her. Touché my dear! 😂

Amazing how our kids use our own words on us. It really keeps us parents on our toes. It keeps us accountable. It keeps us humble.

When one daughter complains about the other’s attitude and behavior, I always tease (and remind) them that they are the same. “Mirror, mirror” or “have you met yourself?” or “speck, meet plank.”

But really, God always reminds and rebukes me — my children are a reflection of me. I am the same too. He’s just more compassionate and less sarcastic than I am. Lord help me! 😂 ❤️

From the fruit of their mouth a person’s stomach is filled;
with the harvest of their lips they are satisfied.

The tongue has the power of life and death,
and those who love it will eat its fruit.
Proverbs 18:20-21

I Don’t Want You to Die, Mommy….

I don’t know if it’s because she is the youngest or because it’s just really her personality, but Gianna is majorly clingy to me. She really loves me and even though we are constantly together, she still tells me that she misses me and wants me….. to do everything with her, even though there are other members of the family. 😂 She also has so much compassion for me. She’s happy when I’m happy, cries with me when I’m sad.

A few months ago I learned that, for some reason, she has this fear of me dying. She has told me quite a number of times already, most often out of the blue and when it’s quiet and we’re about to sleep. With a sad face, she would say “I don’t want you to die, Mommy.”

At first I thought it was ridiculous. Clinginess overload. But I couldn’t tell her that that would never happen. That would be cruel and dishonest. So instead, I told her that I won’t die yet. That I will die when I’m old, when she is already an adult, married with kids. But then she told me that she doesn’t want me to grow old so I won’t die haha. I just hugged her and assured her that I’m still here. She has told me enough times for me to take it seriously and not laugh it off.

A few days ago, she said it to me again, but my response was different. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it sooner, since we always teach our girls to pray to thank God, to declare God’s promises, to ask for help, to ask for healing (even for the smallest owi), to ask for forgiveness, to help others too. But I told her to pray. Pray that God would take care of Mommy and Daddy, that we will be healthy and strong, and live a long life. I prayed first, and then she followed. And you know, since then, she has blurted out prayers or announcements that she will pray, when in bed, while she’s watching tv, and once while I was in the bathroom! She came in, told me she needed to pray for me, and prayed that God would take care of me. When I wasn’t feeling so well the other day, she prayed for me. I thanked her, and she proudly told me that it was what I taught her. I don’t hear her say she doesn’t want me to die anymore. I just hear her pray. When she is reminded of her fear, she now knows how to respond!

Wow. That is the power of prayer! My words were never enough to give her the assurance that she needed. There was always a follow-up to her worries. But prayer brought the peace of God into her heart, and continues to do so each time she fights her fears with it. Miraculous work that the Lord is doing in my little girl’s heart. Gianna does not know it yet, but she is already practicing Philippians 4:6-7. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ❤️

May we learn from the example of a young child, to trust the Lord and receive His peace, despite the enormity of our fears and the vastness of our uncertainties.