Family, Just My Thoughts

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

Just My Thoughts

Finding Dory. Finding Me.

Finding Nemo is one of my all-time favorite Pixar movies. It was also Danae’s favorite when she was around 2 years old. She would ask to watch it again and again. Needless to say, we were excited to learn that they were making another about the most beloved character, Dory.

Ever since we watched Kung Fu Panda 3, I decided that there was no more going to the movies with Gianna. Not til she’s 3 maybe. She’s really active and loud haha. I used to be able to just breastfeed and put her to sleep, but that’s a thing of the past now. Snacks kept her busy for a short while during Kung Fu Panda, but after that, I could not concentrate on the movie anymore. On and off her seat, up and down the stairs, in and out of the theater! But for Finding Dory, I was in faith that we would both enjoy the movie. There have been other movies but I let King, Danae and Noelle enjoy those without us. I just had to with Finding Dory. And despite some movement and some noise (waving and saying “Hi Vuwan” to everyone), we did it! Gianna now recognizes “Meemo” and “Find Doyee” when she sees them on pictures, posters, videos.

I do not think it was as special as Finding Nemo was, but I still loved it. My favorite part was when Dory discovered that her parents had been waiting for her to find the shells they had been continually setting up, so that she could come home. That just really reminded me of God’s love for me. Dory’s parents never gave up. Despite their daughter’s difficulty in remembering, they still believed that she would be able to find her way home in case she got lost. They loved her, taught her, and took care of her well while she was with them. They encouraged her and believed in her. And when they had lost her, they continued to hope. They made sure they did their part so that Dory could find them again.

I have short term memory loss too. Sometimes it’s so easy for me to forget the goodness of God. When I am faced with a difficult or painful situation, doubts and complaints set in. But God never gives up on me. He continues to draw me to Himself. He tests me, He disciplines me, He teaches me. Sometimes in the process, I get lost. But God is faithful. He always gives me nudges, reminders, revelations to lead me back to Him. He lays out all kinds of shells for me so that I can find my way back home. What a beautiful picture of the Father’s love, faithfully waiting for the return of His child.

Though Dory’s parents did not go and look for her, our Father seeks us when we are lost. God is a gentleman and would never force Himself on us. But He is the one who pursues us and reminds us of His love because He wants to be with us. He wants us to be with Him. He waits until we remember that life is empty apart from Him. He waits until we remember His love, what it is like to be without it and to come to a place of not wanting to be without Him. He waits until we remember that He is home. Dory started remembering that love and she just had to find her parents because she did not want to be away from them a second longer. Even though she already belonged to a new family with Nemo and Marlin, she still was compelled to find her original family, her original home. When we realize that we belong to God and there is no other person we would rather have with us as we go through the ups and downs of life, we come running back. When we do, we are humbled, forgiven, reunited, restored, reignited, faith-filled and complete again. Oh the patience, perseverance, and great love of God! It happens over and over and over, our unfaithfulness and faithlessness — unbelievable. But He remains forever and ever and ever faithful.

I love Finding Dory because the heart of the story is very much like Finding Me.

 

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23

But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. Psalm 86:15

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

 

 

Homeschooling, Just My Thoughts, My Kids, Parenting, THE BRAINY BUNCH

Focus, Fruitfulness, and God’s Faithfulness

2012 was an amazingly fruitful year for me! Looking back at the pictures of people and events I took, looking at my pictures taken by other people in many church events and in friends’ homes, thinking about all the blogs I posted and all the get-togethers we hosted, not to mention the birthdays that we celebrated and family trips we took, plus homeschooling…..yeah, 2012 was indeed fruitful. Although it began as a blur, I was able to write down a few faith goals, one of which was to be productive, fruitful every day. God is faithful. He answered my prayer.

One of the faith goals I wrote down was regarding homeschooling, that God would confirm to me whether it was right to homeschool Danae or not, which of course He did. We began last June. I’ve posted a few about our experiences — Why Homeschool?, OurVery Own Homeschool Room, Perks of Homeschooling — Freedom and Creativity, Perks of Homeschooling — Flexible Hours, Perks of Homeschooling — Opportunities.

my name published! :)
my name published! 🙂

Another one I prayed for was that my name be published. I did not know how, when or where, but I just told God my desire. He answered that prayer in a really funny way. My friend Varsha Daswani asked me for some holiday safety tips because she was writing an article for a magazine. I sent her the few that I thought of, and later on she told me that she would quote me, and a bunch of our other friends, in the article. So there, my name is actually published in a magazine! Haha, I love God’s sense of humor!

This year, God’s word for me is FOCUS. Yes, He made me fruitful and productive last year, but this year I need to balance that. I need to focus on my priorities on a daily basis, do the things I need to do first everyday — personal quiet time, family devotions, exercise, and homeschooling. Everything else must work around those as much as possible.

I believe I started 2013 right, and there have already been breakthroughs in our homeschooling, even though it’s been barely a week since we began. Noelle has joined us, and Danae has somehow matured and no longer whines about working on her paces. Thank you Lord! We have been following a better routine, and it seems to be finally working for us. Most importantly, I think we all have BETTER ATTITUDES. Focus and keeping my priorities straight helps me to teach my children better, and therefore fosters a conducive atmosphere for learning. It really begins with me. God’s grace abounds when we obey.

I also started exercising again the day after I found out that I had high blood pressure. Thank God for annual physical exams! That was on the last week of December last year.  I’d been complaining about dizzy spells for more than a month, and that must have been the reason. Thank God it never spiked too high, especially with all the yummy food over the holidays. After our church’s annual January fast and exercising with our Xbox Kinect almost daily, I am happy to say that my blood pressure is normal again! It’ll take more exercise and a better diet to maintain this, of course.

I am grateful for 2012 and the many lessons I learned. I am thankful for the HOPE I have in JESUS, that even though I did make mistakes and I will still make mistakes, He is not finished with me yet. His mercies are new every morning. Every year is a new chance to do things right. Every day is a new chance to make the right choices.

I am hopeful for what is to come. Again, with the things I desire, I do not know how, where or when, but God is faithful. He wants to bless me and my family. His ways are higher than mine. His timing is perfect. 🙂

Just My Thoughts, MY THOUGHTS EXACTLY

Lessons Learned from Yesterday

There are a few lessons to be learned from our experience yesterday. (Click link for the full story)

>King was calm when he got out of the car. I heard him gently ask the girl if she was okay. He was gentle in speaking with each person concerned, from the witnesses, the neighbor, to the mom. In hindsight, I realize how well he handled all of it. If I were the one driving, I would have freaked out, mad as hell at myself, the situation and everyone else. Yes, I would have felt first before I would have thought. The outcome would have been very different, I imagine. Thank God I wasn’t driving, and I caught myself before I started ranting. IN TENSE SITUATIONS, EVEN AS THE ACCOMPANYING PARTY, WE MUST REMAIN CALM AND USE OUR HEAD.

>King was not and could not have been driving fast given the tight space of where the accident happened. It was not a case of King not seeing the girl cross in front of us because she WASN’T in front of us. She came from the side and hit King’s door. It was clearly not carelessness on our part, but we could not walk away from something like that. We could not walk away from Angel. It did not even cross our minds. We had to take responsibility despite the facts. We just had to do the right thing. PROVING WHO IS RIGHT OR WRONG MATTERS SO MUCH LESS THAN DOING WHAT IS RIGHT.

>”You can’t use that as an excuse. How can a girl hit a car? All expenses should be paid!” I was already starting to get riled up hearing these words from Angel’s mom when she arrived, especially since we did not even think for a second not to take care of the expenses. I actually sort of laughed to myself and told the girls (and myself) to be quiet. I know myself too well. If I start, I may not be able to stop. So I chose not to start. Arguing would have made things worse. It would have made the mom angrier, more defensive, and she would never have accepted anything we had to say. SOMETIMES, IT IS BETTER TO BE QUIET EVEN WHEN WHAT WE WANT TO SAY IS TRUE AND RIGHT.

>Upon talking to the mom, she mentioned that there were a couple of people who kept yakking when she arrived at the scene. She didn’t even know them, but they were telling her to sue us. And to think those people weren’t actually there when it happened! Some people just don’t know that they are not helping, that they are merely adding fuel to the fire. Or maybe some people just want to cause trouble for others. I thank God she did not listen to them, though clearly she was upset with us at first. I thank God she chose to get the facts, instead of letting her emotions rule. Her main concern, she told me, was the welfare of her child. There are many people with different opinions, beliefs, and intentions. WE MUST BE WISE IN CHOOSING WHO WE GIVE OUR EAR TO.

>Even though it was not our fault, I can totally understand why others would immediately think it is. It does sound silly when we say a girl hit our car. How is that even possible? Well, believe it or not, it is. It just goes to show that what we think, based on what makes the most sense, may not actually be correct. IT IS EASY TO ASSUME AND TO JUDGE, BUT YOU REALLY DON’T KNOW MUCH IF YOU WEREN’T ACTUALLY THERE YOURSELF.

>Accidents happen. Nobody ever plans to get into one, but we can certainly plan to somehow prevent them. What happened with Angel just reinforced what we have been teaching our kids. I get graphic when I tell them that disobedience can cost a life. Crossing the street is no joke. Danae already did that once — she refused to hold my hand and she dashed to the other side of the road as a van was slowly approaching. Thankfully, nothing happened, though it was a potentially disastrous scenario. I am sure that Angel and our experience are now ingrained in my girls’ minds, that they will be extra careful around cars and on streets. TEACHING OUR KIDS IS ONLY HALF THE BATTLE, BUT AT LEAST THEY WILL BE BETTER EQUIPPED FOR LIFE.

>I learned later on that their neighbors who helped us was not even close to their family. They only knew Angel because she frequently bought goods from their small store. It was perfect timing that they just happened to pass by on their motorcycle within those ten minutes, and dropped their plans, so they could help Angel out. The witnesses whom Angel was walking behind, willingly recounted the event to the neighbor who stayed with us. It didn’t have to be a “our word vs their word” type of thing. Add to that, King discovered that Angel’s mom is also a Christian! In all of it, God’s grace was evident.  We are completely thankful that DESPITE OUR INABILITY TO COMPREHEND WHY BAD THINGS HAVE TO HAPPEN, WE CAN BE SURE OF GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY AND HIS FAITHFULNESS.

Family, Just My Thoughts, MY THOUGHTS EXACTLY, THE BRAINY BUNCH

YESTERDAY

So here’s what you missed on Glee….

Just kidding. Here’s what happened yesterday.

King, the kids and I were en route to church to help pack more relief goods. As King slowly turned at an intersection full of other cars and tricycles, shortly after exiting our village gate, something slammed into his door hard. King hit the brakes immediately. I heard panic in people’s voices. At that very moment, I covered my eyes and started to cry because it felt like we had run over something. But I caught myself and looked outside. I saw the worried looks on people’s faces. I heard a lady say something about not running to cross the street. To my horror, it was a little girl. She was in tears, down on the ground, holding her bruised leg.

King was trying to talk to her and help her. She kept insisting that she was okay and that she didn’t want to go to the hospital. She was clearly hurt. We didn’t want to leave her. The lady who we thought was her mother, was not. Apparently, the six-year-old girl, Angel, was alone. She was just following the lady, her sister and their kids. They had come from school. They were dismissed early and she decided to leave school without waiting for her dad to get her. When she suddenly ran to cross the street, one of them tried to stop her. That’s when she hit us.

Thank God for those ladies who saw the whole thing and recounted it to me. All the while, I thought we had run over her! But we didn’t. She didn’t run in front of the car. She ran into the left side of our car. King also was certain that Angel only hit his door and fell back.

The poor girl was scared, and before King could convince her to come with us, a neighbor of theirs passed by and saw her. The lady neighbor got off the motorcycle to help her, and they eventually rode our car. The male neighbor went back to fetch Angel’s mom. We were already about to go to the hospital, but a barangay official who happened to be there told us we needed to go through due process first. He didn’t want us to go yet. Go figure.

Angel kept crying. She was more concerned about her mom getting mad though than about her pain. I told her that it didn’t matter if her mom got mad, what mattered was that she got checked and pronounced okay by a doctor. By the time other people told us to go ahead and have the girl treated since a neighbor was with her anyway, around ten minutes later, the mom came.

I had already anticipated an angry mother. But hearing the way she spoke when she arrived, without even hearing the whole story yet, irked me. Nonetheless, I knew it best to stay quiet as she entered our car. I told the girls to not say a word, but I was actually talking to myself haha. Maybe seeing that we had kids with us too, and that we were willing to take care of her daughter, plus after her kind-hearted neighbor sort of explained what happened, she wasn’t so aggressive anymore.

We took them to a clinic that they preferred to go to. King told me over the phone as the girls and I were waiting in the car, that Angel told the doctor what really happened while her mom was listening. I was relieved. Even though it was technically not our fault and we knew we were innocent, things could have gone way worse than it did. I was all the more relieved when he told me that apart from a sprained ankle and some cuts and bruises, Angel is fine. The doctor said no bones are fractured, and the mom called just this morning to tell us that the x-ray confirmed it. Thank God!

The mom and I were able to talk as we took them home. Nothing was explained to her when she was picked up. All she knew was there had been an accident. I totally get what an emotional roller coaster ride that was for her! Angel is their only child, which is why she is never left alone. She has a tricycle service that brings her to and from school. Her dad also picks her up with the service. Her usual dismissal is at 5PM but she was dismissed at 2PM yesterday, which the parents knew nothing about. Her mom was still perplexed as to why she walked home alone, but this probably explains it. I am also perplexed as to why the school let her leave without an adult or without informing the parents first.

But anyway, it was good to see Angel at peace in the arms of her mom. It was good to see a smile and hear grateful words from the mom’s lips. It was heartbreaking to know that we had a part in Angel getting hurt, but we are extremely grateful that nothing worse happened. We are extremely grateful for the peaceful goodbye.

Despite trouble, the Lord indeed proves faithful. 🙂