Personal New Year (Birthday) Thanksgiving

(submitted for December 2012 Church Newsletter)

The month of November is a special month for me. Not only is it Thanksgiving, it is also the time when I get to celebrate my very own personal new birthday! With that said, I thought I’d share my “Personal New Year’s Thanksgiving” including some of the things that I have learned thus far over 45 years of a blessed life and over 26 years of equally blessed marriage and motherhood coupled with some of my fave Scriptures and quotes.

Count your blessings, name them one by one, ….see what God hath done! 

Thankful for: 

  • God’s goodness and love (my saving grace....though unearned and undeserved, is always ever unconditional and unending) 
  • Jesus Christ (my Rock and Redeemer
  • Holy Spirit (my Guide and Counselor
  • Word of God (my daily bread
  • Prayer (my lifeline; “oldest form of wireless communication; no busy signal, always available, never a dropped call”
  • Family (my first-hand teachers on love; “The love of family is life’s greatest joy”; “Love is the only thing that can be divided without being diminished”)
  • Friends (my angels on earth
  • Health (my wealth on earth
  • Home (my refuge and shelter on earth; “All the riches in the world cannot equal a home filled with love”
  • Writing/journaling (my reflections and testimonies of God’s faithfulness in my life
  • Quiet time (my time with God; In His presence is fullness of joy - Psalm 16:11
  • Bible Study Group and church (my brothers and sisters-in-Christ
  • The beauty of nature (my favorite art; How Great Thou Art!

Some of my Spiritual Do's and Don'ts: 

  • Don't think of how far we have to go; Do think of how far we've come. (“I may not be where I need to be, but thank God I'm not where I used to be” – Joyce Meyer) 
  • Don't wait until everything is perfect before we decide to enjoy our life everyday; Do enjoy where we are on the way to where we're going 
  • Don't compare and judge ourself and others; Do realize we all have strengths and weaknesses and therefore need one another 
  • Don't take on cares; Do cast off our cares on HIM. (To do what I can, and leave what I can't to God. To let go and let God)

On Marriage: “The gift of weathering the seasons of life together is only experienced when we do not give up in the dry seasons.”

On Motherhood: To embrace the differences amongst/between our children. To notice and to love what is already good in each them. To be attentive and to completely savor every season/phase of their growth. (they grow up fast)

On Life: To be aware and fully enjoy the richness of everyday life; To have an expectant heart....The best is yet to come!!!

Thank God We Are Not The Same

(submitted for November 2012 church newsletter)

Have you ever heard a sermon at church and the message pertains to a situation that you are currently experiencing? And it's as if God is talking to you right then and there? Doesn't it give you goosebumps of gratitude and awe all over?

I elbowed my husband during the sermon at the recent Heritage Sunday to point out the title of the message: "Thank God, We Are Not The Same!" Though the focus of the message was more about embracing the diversity in the church, the title hit home for me as it pertains to my recent complaints and frustrations toward the "differences" between me and my husband.

You see, my husband and I are polar opposites. Besides the obvious age (15 years my senior) and cultural (I'm Filipino and he's American)gaps that we have, my husband is a night owl and I'm a morning person. His top choices for TV shows and movies would be my least, and vise versa. And while I love to go out and big crowds don't bother me, my husband would rather stay home especially if there's even a slight chance that there would be a big crowd. The list can go on and on.

Like a diverse church united by the same Spirit that established the very first church (Acts 2:1-13 The Holy Spirit Comes at Pentecost), over the years (26 years and strong), the same Spirit empowered our marriage and we have learned to respect our differences, to compromise, and to focus on our similarities and the things that bind us together.

By the grace of God through the power of the Holy Spirit, we have even learned to like some of the things that the other enjoys. And most importantly, I have come to realize and embrace that there are wonderful gifts that a polar opposite can bring. The gift of our polar opposite can fill in our blanks, challenge us to stretch, and even complete us.

For years I have been asking: "God, please change my husband" when I should have been praying: "Thank you God, we are not the same".

Solitude: A Renewal Ritual

(submitted for October 2012 church newsletter)

Life throws us "curve balls" every once in a while. You know, those times when all of a sudden things seem too overwhelming to handle? When that happens we are thrown out of balance. The enemy targets our time for solitude because those off-balance moments are the enemy’s playground.  I have learned that it is during those very "busy" moments when I need a time for solitudeeven more. Only when I pause and take time in solitude, to pray and process the whirlwind of emotions that always accompany those "curveballs", can I regain my equilibrium and bring me back in balance.

Jesus practiced solitude throughout his life and ministry.  He sought solitude prior to preaching (Mark 1:35, Luke 4:42), after hearing about the death of John the Baptist (Matthew 14:13), after feeding the multitude (Matthew 14:23), before choosing His disciples (Luke 6:12), and at the end of his life he sought solitude in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36).  If Jesus Himself needed time to be with the Father, how much more do we need this time?

Solitude is a primary spiritual discipline. Dallas Willard says, “solitude is generally the most fundamental in the beginning of the spiritual life, and it must be returned to again and again as that life develops.”  If we are to grow spiritually, we need to continuously practice the discipline of solitude preferably on a daily basis. Solitude has become my foundation for the practice of other disciplines such as meditation, journaling, and prayer.

Solitude rarely happens unless it's scheduled. Therefore, the first most important step is carving out the time.  Log it in your calendar as “appointment with God”. Anytime that works best for you is the best time. The important thing is that you take time.  Pretty soon you won’t need to log it in anymore, because it will become a natural part of your schedule.

I like to think of solitude as one of my renewal rituals and a time for some R&R (rest and reflection). Rituals allow us to create our own ways or strategies of doing things that inspire us and that work best for us.  We can uplift or elevate the way we do ordinary things so that a simple task rises to the level of something special - as in putting the “extra” in the ordinary, making it extraordinary.  As a stay-at-home mom, I spend a large portion of my time keeping the home clean.  I have learned to incorporate cleaning as part of this renewal ritual.  I may not be sitting still, but my mind is free and open, allowing a time for solitude and prayer.  To elevate the task, I may put on my special apron, play a soothing music, or light a sweet smelling candle, allowing an enriched sense of well-being as I take delight in a clean home that exudes serenity and invites more solitude. Which brings us to the next step: finding your own place of peace and comfort.

Retreating to your own place of peace and comfort can be one of the highlights of solitude. You could dedicate a corner of a room (perhaps by the window?) and possibly decorate it with a comfortable chair or chaise, coupled with a nice lamp and table for tea, and maybe a beautiful basket for fave books and journals?. Or it could be in the warmth and comforts of your bed.  You can possibly add a luxuriously soft blanket and pillows (just be careful not to fall asleep:). Or it could even be in the sanctuary of your car which has become the more common spot for me. When lived in Pismo Beach, I parked by the beach after I dropped the kids off at school and indulged in the beauty of God's creation.  These days, I park in San Francisco after dropping Isabella off , either by the ballet with the view of the beautiful Opera House and City Hall, or by the marina with the view of the awesome Golden Gate bridge.  Anywhere it may be, I look forward to it everyday. As I go to my place of solitude, I am excited about what will happen and I wait expectantly. I know my time there would be something rich and fruitful. It is a place where I retire for renewal and a place to commune and delight with the Lord.