Bible Study 09/17/2011

Wonderful bible study today reminding us not to judge nor lose hope on the people we think will never come to repentance and obedience and therefore will never be saved.

Paul’s story is a perfect example. He was Saul in his “B.C.” life (before Christ) when he “intensely persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it” (Galatians 1:13). Saul had a "but God" moment: Ephesians: 2:4 "But God who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions - it is by grace you have been saved".

My friends who knew me during my own "B.C." life asks: “what happened to you?” It’s such a wonderful question with an equally wonderful answer: “Christ happened to me!”

Just when I start thinking: I found Him for I was obedient to His word, “seek and you shall find”; I am reminded that it was not He who was lost….I was lost and He found me!

Thank you dear Lord for reminding me that your grace is a gift...not because of works so that I may not boast.

Ephesians 2:8-10 New International Version (NIV)

8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Jeremiah 9:24
but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD.

2 Corinthians 10:8
So even if I boast somewhat freely about the authority the Lord gave us for building you up rather than tearing you down, I will not be ashamed of it.

Galatians 6:14
May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

Isabella's Dance Anthology

Click on the photo to watch a video of Isabella's dance journey

Isabella's Dance Anthology from when she started performing as a dance troupe member at CDMA beginning in 2007 (at 8 years old) to her performances at Joffrey Ballet and in Panama in the summer of 2010. We hope you enjoy. Thanks for watching.

Getting to Know Me

One of my spiritual mentors and angel on earth, tita Rose, is a contributor for St. Paul United Methodist Church newsletter. In her segment, Getting to Know You, she asked to feature my story for the month of December 2010.

Here are my answers to her interview questions:

1.Tell me about your family.
I’m a blessed only child to amazing parents. Most of you probably know my dear mom, Mila Sebastian. My beloved dad, Arnulfo Sebastian, went home to be with the Lord in 2001. In 2009 we welcomed my stepdad, Dennis Magcale, into our family.
I’m also a blessed full-time stay-at-home mom to 4 wonderful children (Phil 23, Immanuel 21, Ian 18, and Isabella 11) and wife to a loving husband (Russ) of 24 years.

2. I'm aware that you're privileged to be a stay-at-home mom. Do you have regrets about this arrangement?
I indeed consider it a great privilege and awesome gift being a stay-at-home mom. There are so many wonderful blessings brought about by full-time motherhood. I am very grateful for all the precious memories of our children’s growing up years that I was able to fully partake team mom in baseball, assistant to my husband as den leader in cub-scouting, taekwondo coach, and ballet mom. Full time motherhood allows me to take Isabella to her daily training at SF Ballet, attend and volunteer at Nutcracker shows and accompany her at summer programs. All these are made possible because of the blessing of full time motherhood. Being a stay at home mom also enables me to fully guide my children in realizing their full potential. I am very proud and grateful to say that they all excel in their own respective callings. Best of all, they are all loving children, beautiful inside and out. So I can honestly say that I do not have any regrets.

3.Tell me about one life-changing or unforgettable moment in your life.
We all know that every person has his/her own stories of trials that make way for a change in one’s life. Some call these moments as “wake-up calls”. I like to call them “opportunities for transformation”. Mine came in the form of financial difficulty. Prior to my personal relationship with the Lord, I led a “trying-to-do-it-all and have-it-all” lifestyle. We kept up with the worldly standards of accumulating material wealth. We even moved several times in search of the better and bigger home. Then in 2004 came my opportunity for husband lost his lucrative contract, our main source of income. To make a long story short, we were forced to sell one of our homes in 2006(the big one which I thought was my dream home). Though it was a very difficult decision at the time, I realize now that it was our amazing Lord God Almighty rescuing me from my superficial and exhausting lifestyle. Not only was I released from the chains of unsatisfying way of life, it was the best course of action (I’d like to call it “Divine Appointment”). We sold our home for so much more than what it would have sold in the economy that followed. And not only that...because of it, we were able to purchase a home in Pismo Beach close to Cal Poly. Amazing, don’t you think? Just exactly the way we know only God would and can do...the way He operates...amazingly perfect.

4.What's your favorite biblical passage and how does this impact your life?
I have a lot of favorite scriptures. But in line with my story of financial difficulty as my “opportunity for transformation”, Matthew 6:33 comes to mind: But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
I also use this verse in my daily tasks. It reminds me to put God first as my top priority and a lot of unnecessary things just seem to naturally fall off my to-do list on their own.

5. How do you make use of your time?
This question brings to mind Proverbs 31: 27 - She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. As a veteran home manager, I was able to establish daily/weekly routines that I try to follow in order to “watch over the affairs of our household”. I have to say that solitude is an important part of my daily rituals. It is logged in my schedule as “time with God”. I found that when I start my day with God, my entire day has direction. If I start feeling overwhelmed, I know I somehow neglected to include God (or if I forget, my angel daughter would sweetly remind me). I realized that the busier I am, the more I need to make time for God. The discipline of solitude enables me to make the best use of my time each day and is yet another blessing I’m grateful for.

6. How did you learn the discipline of solitude?
I was able get the training of the discipline of solitude when the Lord brought us to Pismo Beach. Little did I know that our move to Pismo Beach, which was then full of uncertainties, would become an essential part of my journey toward spiritual maturity. It was a beautiful place by the sea showcasing the grandeur of God’s creation thereby inviting daily contemplation and repose. It was there where I got the chance to get closer to the Lord. Away from the busy city life, I got the chance to cultivate the habit of not only starting and ending my day with God but also including Him in all I do. Talk about God’s amazing divine plan in turning what appeared to be a trial into an opportunity for transformation!

7. What makes you happy and what makes you sad?
My personal relationship with the Lord makes me happy and also all the blessings He has given me...full-time motherhood, family, friends, health, my bible study group....
When you have a personal relationship with the Lord, your perspective on sadness is I said, I like to call them opportunities for transformation. But to answer your question, it makes me sad when my personal relationship with the Lord is not right because of something I did or did not do for His glory.

8. Who is a wise person in your life? Why do you think so?
The person(s) I consider wise are those who have a deep personal relationship with the Lord. And in my life, that would be the ones who brought me and continues to bring me closer to the Lord....tita Rose Agana and ate Lolit Flores, my spiritual mentors, angels, and bible study leaders. They are indeed wise individuals whose relationship with the Lord is not only personal or private but also communal as they share their wisdom and blessings to everyone they meet.

9.How do you want to be remembered by people around you?
I would love to be remembered by the people around me as someone who reflected the love of Christ. Someone whose smile, hug, words, welcomed them home to God’s love. It would be delightful to hear my children thanking God for a mother who lived the virtues she wanted to see in them.

Easter 2011

We're already well into the month of May and I'm just now posting our Easter 2011. I did post this on my Facebook page. The convenience of Facebook sometimes takes the place of blogging. OK, I guess I'm just justifying my lateness.

Isabella and I left for Pismo right after I picked her up from school, Friday, April 22nd (no ballet class at SFB). We stopped at Cal Poly to pick up Ian at his dorm.

As soon as we got to the house, Isabella and I posed for a photo-op in the backyard while Phil was barbecuing.

Then it was pure relaxation at our home sweet Pismo Beach home.

The following day, Russ and I had the pleasure of watching Isabella at CDMA's company class from 9-11am. It was a great treat for Russ and I as we don't really get to watch Isabella during classes at SFB. We were very pleased and proud of her progress not to mention the joy and passion that shows through her dancing. We're so grateful.

Then we were off to pick up the boys to head to the Easter Egg hunt at Dinosaur Caves Park. We got there at the tail end of the hunt. The website said the hunt for her age group starts at 12:10. We got there at 12:00 but the hunt had already started. It's so funny because in the previous years, we had trouble with the Easter Egg hunt. Last year, I made a mistake of taking her on a Sunday when it was on a Saturday (Easter 2010). Then in 2008 or 2009, we were trying to go to 2 hunts and we were just in the nick of time arriving at the Grover Beach hunt. The problem was that the hunt area was closed off from where we parked and we couldn't run in to the already in progress hunt. Phil made a comment that at least this year we're closer to the actual time. Anyway, Isabella still managed to get 3 eggs:).

After the hunt we went for lunch at Pierside Cafe by the beach

Mr. & Mrs. Duck

There is a Mr. & Mrs. Duck who comes and frolics in our pool once in a while in the morning. Isabella and I took pictures while watching them during breakfast before she left for school one sunny April morning. They normally just stay for about 5-10mins and then they fly away. Isabella called daddy and told him about it and daddy said maybe they're celebrating their 25th:)

Quotes of the day

Be who you are and say what you feel,
because those who mind don't matter
and those who matter don't mind.
-Dr. Seuss-

Learn how to be happy with what you have
while you pursue all that you want.
-Jim Rohn-

Blessed are the flexible
for they shall not be bent out of shape

Scrapbooking Days

I came across these photos of our old home back in 2005 when I turned our third garage into a sscrapbooking/hobby room.

See the garage on the left? That's the one I decided to convert into a craft room because of its arched windows only to find out I felt so detached from the rest of the family. We sold this home in September of 2006 in favor of what I call our "smaller with bigger soul" home by the beach.
Old images of this home is available here. There is a wonderful story behind our finding and selling this home....but that has to wait until another post. I have to do another activity for my "luxury of solitude for myself" day.




What's Your Decorating Style?

I try to reserve Sundays as my "doing nothing" day or should I say the "luxury of solitude for myself" day. You know, things like curling up with a good book and a cup of tea, or listening to my spiritual mentors listed under my featured links, or even dancing (today I had fun dancing with DD, Isabella, using Michael Jackson's This is It video:)), and now taking a fun online quiz and blogging about it:).

I took this short and fun quiz at Home Goods and it came very close, if not spot on, with regards to its description of my decorating style.

Here's the results of my quiz:

Imelda, you are a GLOBAL CASUAL

Your home is warm and inviting, and expresses your curiosity and zest for life. You have wide-ranging interests, and an appreciation for many different cultures and ways of life. You bring a sense of the far-flung world into your home through its décor through unique or artisan-made treasures. Objects in your home tend to reflect your personality, your passions, your values, and your eclectic interests. This gives your home a sense of intrigue and comfort.

You value creativity. You are stylish and fun loving, and can be an inspiration to others. You have a natural sense of drama, and you know you have to be willing to take risks—whether with colors, finishes, furniture choices, or ideas—for your home to stand out. Your home can be happy and lively and the place all of your friends want to be.

I think my friends and the people who have visited my home would agree with my results (you can click on the tab "Our Homes" and see if the descriptions sound like me). You can try it too and see how close the results will come out for you. I think you'll have fun trying it. It was certainly fun for me and I also like the styling tips it offers to make your home a little happier. Here are the tips for me:

Putting Your Style to Work!
With your style and needs in mind, here are a few tips that will help you make your home a little happier.

1. Your Design Challenge: EXPERIMENT
The last mile in decorating is the hardest, because that is when you really take the risk in expressing yourself. As with fashion or jewelry, one bold piece can set the tone, and the others complement the look. Don't be afraid to experiment, drag stuff around and make mistakes. Use what you're passionate about to inspire your home, whether it is a love for patterns, travel, gardening, family or the sea. Consider a collection of books, pictures or objects on your passion. Giving yourself parameters helps you choose things in keeping with your true style—which is precisely the point of HomeGoods StyleScope. But also think of colors, a country, a movie or words you love when you're shopping, so that you can check that these pieces match your unique sensibility before you bring them home.

2. Your Happy Place
The more serene your bedroom feels, the happier you will be. A pretty coverlet over a big duvet makes the bed look smooth—and not all duvet-lumpy! And, a blanket folded at the foot of the bed breaks up the big expanse of fabric. Euro shams—those big square pillows—are great for reading in bed, and a few decorative pillows can also be a nice touch. Consider adding a basket or a small occasional table near your bedside table for books, papers, lotions, linen spray or whatever you'd like.

3. Be Party-Ready All the Time!
Scent: The first thing you notice about a home is how it smells. Use naturally fragrant cleaning products. If you find a scented candle or fresh potpourri you love, stock up on it. Any scent you like, whether perfume or linen spray, can be used on upholstery, bedding or just spritzed into the air.

Mood: Nice, flattering light makes us feel good. So nix the harsh, direct light from overhead fixtures in favor of the softer glow from floor and table lamps. Also, stock up on some votive candles and a couple of hurricane lanterns for setting around the room.

Food: Devote space in your pantry or on a shelf for go-to party essentials: crackers, dip, chips, nuts—whatever you like to serve. Keep on hand a collection of attractive bowls and cocktail napkins, and you'll be able to set a spread—instantly!

Drink: The simplest and chicest thing is to have a drinks tray or table always set up. Include a mix of pretty glasses, an ice bucket, a lovely pitcher, and bottles of soda and water. When the bell rings, just add ice and limes.

Thanks to The Inspired Room for sharing this quiz.

If you do decide to take the quiz, have fun with it and please let me know what your style is.

More Quotes: and my short feflections on them

Don't judge those who try and fail,
judge those who fail to try.

My reflection: Don't judge. Period.

Here is a better wording of the quote:
Try and fail, but don't fail to try. - Stephen Kraggwa

Be not afraid of growing slowly;
be afraid only of standing still.

My reflection: Be not afraid. The Lord is with us (Psalm 118:6).
And for everything there is a season...even for standing still.

Take heed: you do not find
what you do not seek.

My reflection: Just be careful what it is you seek.

Inspired Quotes II

‎A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity;
an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.

The more light you allow within you,
the brighter the world you live in will be.

Confidence comes not from always being right,
but from not fearing to be wrong.

Look deep into nature,
and then you will understand everything better. -Albert Einstein

Giving up doesn't always mean you are weak.
Sometimes it means that you are strong enough to let go.

You may only be someone in the world,
but to someone else, you may be the world. - Enrich Fried, German poet

Only in quiet waters things mirror themselves undistorted.
Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world. - Hans Margolius

He who foresees calamities,
suffers them twice over. - Beilby Porteus

Worry is the interest paid on trouble before it falls due.

Yesterday is a canceled check;
tomorrow is a note;
today is the only cash you have - so spend it wisely. - Kay Lyons

The person who has learned to take things as they come
and to let go as they depart
has mastered the art of cheerful and contented living.

If you really want to do something,
you'll find a way;
if you dont, you'll find an excuse.

Family Room and Kitchen

Hubby took Isabella to ballet yesterday and I was able to spend the afternoon doing some serious "home blessing".

Home blessing is when I do things for the home including cleaning, organizing, and of course decorating/beautification. It always feels so good to savor the results afterwards and I even remembered to take some photos....


I have more to follow but for now gotta get ready for my bible study. Until my next home blessing....

Footprints: A New Version

Imagine you and the Lord Jesus are walking down the road together. For much of the way, the Lord's footprints go along steadily, consistently, rarely varying the pace.

But your footprints are a disorganized stream of zigzags, starts, stops, turnarounds, circles, departures, and returns.

For much of the way, it seems to go like this, but gradually your footprints come more in line with the Lord's, soon paralleling His consistently.

You and Jesus are walking as true friends!

This seems perfect, but then an interesting thing happens: Your footprints that once etched the sand next to Jesus' are now walking precisely in His steps.

Inside His larger footprints are your smaller ones, you and Jesus are becoming one.

This goes on for many miles, but gradually you notice another change. The footprints inside the large footprints seem to grow larger.

Eventually they disappear altogether. There is only one set of footprints. They have become one.

This goes on for a long time, but suddenly the second set of footprints is back. This time it seems even worse! Zigzags all over the place. Stops. Starts. Gashes in the sand. A variable mess of prints.

You are amazed and shocked.

Your dream ends. Now you pray:

"Lord, I understand the first scene, with zigzags and fits. I was a new Christian; I was just learning. But You walked on through the storm and helped me learn to walk with You."

"That is correct."

"And when the smaller footprints were inside of Yours, I was actually learning to walk in Your steps, following You very closely."

"Very good.. You have understood everything so far."

When the smaller footprints grew and filled in Yours, I suppose that I was becoming like You in every way."


"So, Lord, was there a regression or something? The footprints separated, and this time it was worse than at first."
There is a pause as the Lord answers, with a smile in His voice.

"You didn't know? It was then that we danced!"

Learning to Dance in the Rain

(submitted for St. Paul UMC May 2012 Newsletter)

  One rainy day in April 2011, during one of my daughter, Isabella's, rehearsals for the San Francisco Ballet’s production of Coppelia, I learned a lesson on “dancing in the rain”. We decided to take the train rather than our usual drive to San Francisco. We elected to take BART because it was going to be a long rehearsal and I didn't want to have to worry about parking issues. When we got out of the train, it was pouring rain. I told Isabella: "Let's stop at the library and wait for the rain to pass.” She said: "But Mommy, we don't know when the rain will pass. Let's just go for it." So we did “go for it” and toughed the rain. As we were walking the 3 long blocks to SFB, the rain seemed to have gotten worse, and I could feel the water seeping into my boots. I was so concerned about Isabella's feet and tights getting wet. By this time I started losing my peace and getting irritated, opening a door for the enemy to come in. I got upset at Isabella for suggesting to "just go for it" instead of stopping at the library. I was actually upset at myself, but I just had to put the blame on someone else (confession). In her efforts to calm me down, she said: "Mom, remember you always say to enjoy the moments? And this is a rare moment when we get to walk in the rain! Let's have fun with it and we'll always remember it."   Well, I will surely remember that ever so precious moment. I learned yet another treasured lesson from my angel daughter.
I was worried for Isabella’s feet and tights getting wet. Well, they did get wet, but the War Memorial Opera House is fully equipped with a washing machine and dryer, and the staff gladly took care of her wet tights. And there was plenty of time for me to take care of not just her wet feet, but also her blessed spirit. We took time to reflect on the priceless wisdom offered by that particular, memorable moment. So as it turned out, my getting worried, upset, and irritated was a complete waste of energies and time. 

This quote came to mind: "Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass; it's about learning to dance in the rain". 

We can choose to be happy as we wait for the storm to pass.

John 16:33 
"I have told you these things,so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I, Jesus, have overcome the world. 

John 10:10b 
"I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." 

Dear God, Thank you for sending Jesus Christ to overcome the world so that in Him we may have peace. Thank you Jesus for coming so that we may enjoy life to the full even during the “rains and storms” of life. And thank you for an angel daughter who taught me how to “dance in the rain”.

Inspired Quotes

God always gives His best to those

who leave the choice with Him.

A smile and a hug is a great gift... one size fits all.
It can be given for any occasion
and it's easy to exchange.

The real measure of a man's wealth
is what he has invested in eternity.

Thank God for what you have,
TRUST GOD for what you need.

If you fill your heart with regrets of yesterday and the worries of tomorrow,
you have no today to be thankful for.

Love is the only thing that can be
divided without being diminished.

Happiness is enhanced by others
but does not depend upon others.

For every minute you are angry with someone,
you lose 60 seconds of happiness
that you can never get back.

Do what you can, for who you can,
with what you have, and where you are.

Be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.

If you want your dreams to come true, you mustn't oversleep.

Of all the things you wear, your expression is the most important.

The best vitamin for making friends..... B1.

The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts.

The heaviest thing you can carry is a grudge.

Ideas won't work unless ' You' do.

Your mind is like a functions only when open.

The 10 commandments are not a multiple choice.

God doesn't call the qualified, He qualifies the called.

Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about learning to dance in the rain.

When prayers go up, blessings come down.

Don't tell God how big your storm is, Tell the storm how big your God is!

Revelations from Buffing the Floor

(submitted for St. Paul UMC September 2012 Newsletter)
“Mom, why do you buff the floors every day? I think there’s something wrong with you”. This is what my middle son jokingly told me one cleaning day.

You see, as a “seasoned” stay-at-home mom, I have become quite efficient when it comes to cleaning our home, to a point that I buff the floor almost every day. My children would probably argue that it's not efficiency; rather more like OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). They termed my OCD tendencies “Monk-ing” taken from the TV show “Monk” about an obsessive compulsive detective. Anyway, my children often say: “Mom is Monk-ing again”.

My choice of a dark cherry wood flooring for our home didn't help my OCD tendencies. The floor looks beautiful when it is clean and buffed. Unfortunately, every little dust and most specially foot marks, become very visible and they bug me to a point that I sometimes end up all upset at my family (confession time) if they fail to put slippers on and leave foot marks on our newly buffed floor.

So as I buffed the floor, I pondered what my son told me. Could there really be something wrong with me? I think I do have borderline OCD (ok sometimes it seems more like full blown OCD:). There may be some truth to what my son said: I must be getting some type of enjoyment from buffing the floor to be doing it that much. Then the answer stared right at me as I buffed away (one of those aha! moments). Because I also love to reflect, meditate, and pray so much, floor buffing allows me that extra time! And then I realized that I do the same thing when I take a shower, fold laundry, wash dishes, or vacuum - anytime I'm doing something that sort of frees my mind to reflect, meditate, and pray. I call these action prayers....prayers while in “action”.

Then there are those prayers I term my resting/waiting prayers: those graceful moments taken while I'm resting (i.e. tea/coffee time, or when I can't sleep, or during my quiet time) and while I'm waiting (i.e. at the doctor's office, or waiting for Isabella at dance, or just about anytime I'm waiting). So, basically, I have been blessed with a very reflective personality and that, by the grace of God, I am able to use any available time in getting to know HIM more intimately. So now every time I see dust or foot marks on our floor, instead of getting all upset, I remind myself that it is another great opportunity to “meet” with God. And so I blissfully buff away, all to the glory of God.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not human masters.
 - Colossians 3:23

Isabella: Principal's Honor Roll

Congratulations to our DD Isabella who managed to maintain a 4.0 GPA despite her grueling ballet schedule thereby earning her the Principal's Honor Roll award. She also earned the Presidential Award for physical fitness. She is a very diligent student and we are indeed very proud of her.

Coppelia Premiere

All the hard work from the grueling rehearsals for Coppelia paid off and are all so worth it! These photos I purchased from Erik Tomasson Photography and the awesome reviews say it all. It was a magnificent production...from the costumes, to the sets, to the music, and the dancers...all superb!

It was certainly a wonderful opportunity and quite an honor for Isabella being a part of this glorious premiere.

Excerpts from the Reviews:
(click on the link for the complete review)
"And let's hear it for the San Francisco Ballet School, which contributed 24 girls, all in blushing pink tulle, for the demanding combinations of the Waltz of the Golden Hours, and all looking like Makarovas in the making. This show stopping moment suggests that there's a message in giving dancing opportunities for everyone in this Galician town".

“Coppélia” is very big, featuring what seems to be the entire company, including dozens of children from the ballet school in the wedding scene and the Waltz of the Golden Hours. Decades into the future, famous dancers will include “Coppélia” in the War Memorial as stage debut on their résumés".

from the California Literary Review
"This production is, in a word — glorious! ..." But Act III really sold this production. Picture 24 little girls, in gold-sequined pink tutus and tiaras — genius. Besides looking completely adorable, the young corps performed with grace and professionalism.

What an advertisement for the San Francisco Ballet School! If I were a parent in the audience and wanted to find ballet training for my child, Act III of this Coppélia would pretty much dictate my choice.
"In the middle of Act III comes the “Waltz of the Golden Hours” – a 7-part collection of exhibition dancing – essentially a celebration connected to the village’s dedication of a new set of bells and the wedding of Swanilda and Franz..... Opening the festivities were 24 very young ballerinas – all in amazing form, with unified gestures, precision poses, and adorned in the most exquisite tutus a little girl ever dreamed of."

Nutcracker 2010

I'm so happy I finally have some photos from the Nutcracker performances. Here are the beautiful photos I purchased from Erik Tomasson Photography, SFBallet's official photographer.