Sunday, April 22, 2012

Claiming My Blessing!

“Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts?” – Luke 24:38

It’s amazing how this verse spoke to my heart again this morning. It was the featured verse in the
reflection today in Didache. Guess who wrote the reflection featured today… It was me! Ha! It’s both amusing and amazing how this same verse I chose and the very words I wrote around a year ago for Didache which was featured today spoke to me as I face my current challenges.

It’s so true that God’s Word always cuts through our hearts each time we meditate on it. I learned a different lesson before when I last meditated on it. Today, it cuts through my heart anew delivering a somewhat similar lesson but has a new application in my present situation.

The last time I reflected on the passage of the Walk to Emmaus, I was reminded of my experience as a single lady being surprised by God when He finally revealed to me the identity of my future bridegroom. As I recalled my experience, my thoughts and feelings at that time, God directed my thoughts to my present concerns particularly my prayer about the house and lot I’ve been praying for in years.

God was telling me this morning through the same verse not to be troubled and to recognize His hand in helping me and my husband find this property that we like. I had received many messages and passages from God in the past weeks about this property and He had been continuously encouraging me to keep believing that this is indeed what He wants to give to me and my family as our new home. He even used another reflection in Didache before wherein the title was
This Land is Mine. The writer in that reflection shared his story about how he and his wife were able to buy a property which initially they could not afford; but God, in His mercy and loving kindness, provided for them a means. I felt God speaking to me through their story.

Today, God commands me to let go of any doubts in my mind and to just have faith once more in Him. He used my very own reflection in Didache to convey His important message to me now as I face this new challenge in my faith. His question is: Will you believe again that even though you do not see yet or understand how you can afford it that I can give it to you? Will you choose to hold on to the vision even before it becomes a reality in your life? Those were the same questions God asked me when I was still single and waiting to find out who my future bridegroom would be. Those were the same questions in my mind when God told me that night that he wants me and my boyfriend to be engaged and get married soon. Today, He uses the same questions to me as He refers to the real estate property that my husband and I want to purchase.

I’ve realized as I meditate on these words and the Gospel today that sometimes when our prayers are about to be answered, our wishes are about to be granted, or our dreams are about to come true, we find it challenging to grasp and so we sometimes doubt that it is really happening to us. There’s a feeling or thought that something too good to be true is happening to us. And yet, it is true! It is actually happening because our God has made it happen! Our little minds could not fathom how God has made it happen at such a perfect time. Thus, God reminds us once more that “what no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, what no mind has ever conceived is what He has in store for those who love Him and whom He has called according to his purpose.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)

God wows me again! He has wowed me before countless times and here He goes again! I simply can’t stop being in awe of Him and His wonderful works! Just like when I found myself hearing Fr. Jun Lingad, SDB read the verse in the Gospel years ago that led to my husband and I’s sudden engagement, I’m incredulous with joy again as I hear God speak powerfully and volumes to my heart these past weeks through Scriptures and many other means.

I had been telling myself and others before that I think one of the reasons that my husband and I could not find a buyer yet for our condo units is because we still have a mission in the place where we currently live. And that I believe we would be able to sell our units once our mission has been accomplished. We have accomplished our mission recently. The Liturgical Committee in our community has been organized and established. Structures and systems had been in place. Ministry Heads had been elected. There is a Music Ministry already when before we didn’t have a choir. The different things needed and used in celebrating Masses are almost complete through the generosity of our neighbors. There are now more volunteers who can serve in the Masses and other church-related activities. The Masses which were once a month before are now weekly. The Condo Corp. Board of Directors has approved the conversion of our clubhouse into a chapel. So many miracles already happened since we started. As I look back on God’s faithfulness both in big and small ways, I can’t help but be filled with so much joy because He has answered our prayers at every step of the way. A path has been paved where there was once none. Glory and praise to our God who made all things possible!

Today, I believe and know deep in my heart that God has already answered my prayer regarding the real estate property I’ve been asking from God. Like what God tells me through my desk calendar today, “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) God encourages me to keep believing even though I do not know exactly yet how to pay for this property and where the funds will come from. He says further through my desk calendar: What you see with your heart today, you will see with your eyes tomorrow.

I choose to accept and embrace God’s Word to me today. I choose to believe even before I hold the money in my hands. I choose to claim my blessing because God says this “land is mine” already. I choose to step out and see with the eyes of faith. I choose to hope in my loving and powerful God and Father.

If God had paved the way for our sudden engagement years ago, I wouldn’t be surprised if He would pave the way again for me and my husband so that we would find ourselves suddenly selling our condo units in the next days, even tomorrow! Make miracles for us again Lord like You did for Your people in Egypt! We step out in faith and choose not to be troubled or afraid!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Remember the Miracles the Lord Performed

“Remember the miracles he performed, the amazing things he did, and the judgments he pronounced…” (Psalm 105:5)

Remember the wonders. Remember the marvels.  Remember the miracles.  Different versions of this verse use a different word but they all have one thing in common.  They all inspire and encourage awe, admiration and amazement for the great and wonderful works of the Lord.  I first encountered this verse in the Bible many years ago when I was still single and waiting for my bridegroom.  It was an encouragement from God for me then to remember His faithfulness in my life as He performed for me miracle after miracle at every step of my journey. 

Lately, God has been asking me to remember once more the many amazing things He has done for me and through me so I can testify to others about the greatness of His love, compassion and faithfulness.

I have attempted in the past months to write about the recent blessings and miracles He has allowed me to witness but I found myself overtaken by blessings and miracles.  It seems that as I ponder on how to share about how God has been blessing me and the works He has inspired me to do, there is a new blessing and miracle that happens.  I realized now that truly words are not enough to express how great our God is and how amazing and numerous His wonderful works.

Today, as I was inspired by the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, I want to proclaim how faith in our Lord Jesus Christ has made possible countless blessings and miracles in my life and in my ministry.  I recognize that I cannot recount everything.  I am writing this article though to proclaim in my limited and personal way the amazing things that our Lord has done for me.

“You have done many miraculous things, O LORD my God. You have made many wonderful plans for us. No one compares to you! I will tell others about your miracles, which are more than I can count,” says Psalm 40:5.

Let me start with the miracle I asked of God last February when God inspired me to organize an evangelistic event for the youth.  I wrote in one of my blog entries last February entitled Taking the Lord at His Word and Dreaming Big for the Gospel (Part 1) that I would need a miracle from God to stage that event given the limited resources we have.  The good news is that God granted me the miracle I asked of Him and He even surpassed my expectations! 

As in the past, God was not contented to just give me what I asked for.  Last February, while we were planning for the event, concerns about budget arose.  To start with, we didn’t have a budget for the event because it was not planned last year.  It was a new idea suggested by one of our youth members, which I developed.  Moreover, we didn’t get approval from our parish priest to use the funds of our Liturgical Committee to support the event.  Therefore, I decided (as a member of the Board of Directors of our Condo Corp.) together with our Community Development Officer, to make it a community event instead of an event sponsored by our Liturgical Committee.  The Word that I received in my prayer time was too strong not to act on it within my power or authority.  As Peter and the Apostles said in the first reading yesterday, “We must obey God rather than men.”

Out of faith, inspiration and direction from God’s words in Scripture which you can read in my previous post here, I and our Community Development Officer asked for a budget to be approved by the Property Administrator.  We were very happy when we learned that the requested P10,000 budget was approved.  But shortly after we learned the good news, we were informed that the initially approved P10,000 budget by the Property Administrator was cut to P6,500 by the Cost Controller.  That did not faze us though.  We were optimistic that the Lord will provide through the generosity of donors/sponsors.  I rushed to write the solicitation letter and asked the help of the staff from our administration office to help distribute the letters to the business owners in our community to get pledges for donations/sponsorships.  True enough, we got a timely pledge of P5,000 from the mineral water supplier in our community among others around the same time that we learned of the budget cut.  That was already enough to cover the projected expenses despite the budget cut.  Thus, we still decided to push through.  I felt that the pledge was a go signal from God to go on with the event and that He will provide whatever is lacking.  I also thought that the budget cut is the enemy’s way of discouraging us and casting doubts on the Will of God as well as the feasibility and potential of the event. 

Another challenge that we encountered was that the classes in the school beside our community where most of the students we plan to evangelize study were cancelled on the day before the original schedule of the event.  The youth members in our Liturgical Committee suggested that the event be moved to the following weekend to ensure that there would be more students who can participate.  I agreed with their suggestion and we continued to plan for the event.

The next challenge we encountered was that the committees for the event were not functioning as expected.  It was a blessing in disguise that the event was moved to a later date because the committee heads and members were not able to plan and do the things that need to be done for the event.  Seeing the need for direction and guidance of the volunteers, my husband and I took the initiative to come up with a detailed to-do list to help the volunteers prepare for the event and to prevent cramming.  We emailed the list right away but another problem came up.  We were not receiving updates or reports on the status or progress in the accomplishment of the items in the to-do list we sent even though we had been making follow ups through text, email and Facebook.  Since the event is already a few days away and we have reached a point of no return, my husband and I together with our Community Development Officer did what needed to be done as indicated in our to-do list.  There were also some who volunteered to help even though initially they did not volunteer to be part of committees for the event.

Another challenge we had was that at first there were only two groups of performers who pre-registered to compete.  God made a way however and with some help from our Community Development Officer, we eventually had three groups, which was the minimum number we set to push through with the Acoustic Love Song Singing Competition. 

Another problem was the judges, sharer and speaker for the event.  The original idea was to organize an event where one of our priests in the parish will speak to the youth in our community.  But as days and weeks passed, we did not receive feedback or confirmation in spite of follow ups from our parish.  So my husband and I took responsibility by inviting potential judges and sharers from our network.  By God’s divine intervention, we found the perfect judges and sharers and instead of just giving a sharing, I became the main speaker.  All of these happening only a few days into the event so you could just imagine the stress on my part being the overall organizer.

Then, just when we were slowly thinking that things are falling into place, we had another problem.  On the morning of the event, we found out that instead of giving P5,000, the business owner who made the pledge gave only P500.  As soon as I learned of this news, I realized that the enemy is really out to stop us.  I turned to the Lord in prayer and He led me to meditate on the passage of putting on the full armor of God from Ephesians 6:11-20.

Put on all the armor that God gives you, so that you will be able to stand up against the Devil's tricks.  For we are not fighting against human beings but against the wicked spiritual forces in the heavenly world, the rulers, authorities and cosmic powers of this dark age.  So put on God's armor now! Then when the evil day comes, you will be able to resist the enemy attacks; and aftre fighting to the end, you will still hold your ground.

So stand ready, with truth as a belt tight around your waist, with righteousness as your breastplate, and as your shoes the readiness to announce the Good News... At all times carry faith as a shield; for with it you will be able to put out all the burning arrows shot by the Evil One.  And accept salvation as a helmet, and the word of God as the sword which the Spirit gives you.  Do all this in prayer, asking for God's help.  pray on every occasion, as the Spirit leads.  For this reason keep alert and never give up; pray always for God's people.  And pray also for me, that God will give me a message when I am ready to speak, so that I may speak boldly and make known the gospel's secret.  For the sake of the gospel I am an ambassador... Pray that I may be bold in speaking about the gospel as I should.

I texted this message to all our members right away so that they would know and realize too that we are in the middle of a spiritual battle.  We are battling for the souls of the youth in our community and the enemy is doing all he can to hinder us in staging this event that can help win the youth to the Lord’s side.  By God’s inspiration, people were led to donate and pitch in resources to make ends meet and still push through with the event.  There were neighbors who donated food, prices and money.

Then, we were confronted with another challenge.  Up to the morning of the event, there were only a handful of confirmed participants who pre-registered – two!  I had been praying to God that He sends us at least thirty to fifty youth who will attend our event.  I told God that it would already be a good number considering the short period we had to prepare and promote the event.  Also, I thought that even if there would only be twenty youth who would attend, our efforts will still not go to waste because we would be given the opportunity to evangelize and inspire these young people and who knows how these seeds of faith would progress in their hearts and souls? 

Do you want to know how God turned this problem into a miracle?  On the night of our event entitled MusicLUVan, there were not only twenty, or fifty youth who came.  There were HUNDREDS!  Our clubhouse was OVERFLOWING WITH PEOPLE on all sides (parking area, playground and poolside) including the second floor!  People of different ages came out of their homes to witness our event and many people were able to listen to God’s word and were encouraged to use their god-given talents to glorify the Lord.  Wow!  Amazing! Only God can make that happen.

Another miracle the Lord performed for me that night was that I was able to finish my Power Point slides for my talk in spite of the many distractions I had and the firefighting I was doing because of the many big and small problems coming up every now and then.  It’s amazing how God enabled me to finish my slides while coordinating the requirements and the details of the event with many people.  The enemy even harassed me just before the event by giving me a problem with my wardrobe as I was about to get dressed.  Our maid burned my blouse!  So instead of using the remaining hour to rehearse my talk/presentation, I was frantically searching my closet for an appropriate attire.  I still thank God for the opportunity to share my story of how God has blessed me and allowed me to use my talents to bring the Gospel to as many people as I can.

Another miracle God performed was that instead of having three groups of performers only, more musically-inclined young people registered just before the event started to join the competition.  Thus, EIGHT groups performed instead of three!

The other miracles that happened that night were the following:

·         my baby who is exclusively breastfed did not cry while I was giving my presentation;

·        God inspired those in charge of the decorating the place on how to best use the resources we had and made the place look surprisingly good;

·         we had an impromptu and improvised spotlight;

·        although it was not part of the plan and script, the judges were able to give immediate feedback to the performers and were given the chance to inspire and encourage them to use their talents in the service of the Church;

·        there were enough volunteers to man the different stations during the event itself; we were able to prepare all the logistical requirements given the very tight schedule. 

I could go on and on enumerating every single blessing and miracle, big and small alike.  My point in enumerating these is not to give glory to me or to the other people involved in organizing the event.  Not to me or anyone of us, but to God be the glory.  My objective is to share with anyone reading this post how God has helped us and showed us favor by providing for ALL our needs.  We only need to have faith in Him and take Him at His Word. Furthermore, I wrote this article as my way of remembering the miracles God performed for me and through me.  It was not an easy path that I took but I would gladly take this path again given the chance for the sacrifices and the difficulties far outweigh the good that came out of it.

I may not know how God stirred the hearts of the people especially the youth who attended the event and the extent to which these people have been blessed.  I just know in my heart that it was a night of miracles and I don’t want to forget how God solved my problems in organizing that event with countless miracles.

Let me quote a couple of lines from the commentary on the Gospel today in Companion: I do not think I would forget that experience too quickly, if at all.  The generosity of God’s love, compassion and care for His people is on display in this miracle.

I feel that it’s very timely to write this article today as we commemorate the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand in the Gospel today.  I could relate with the little boy who gave all he had to help satisfy a great need that he witnessed.  I thank the Lord for the opportunity to feed the hunger in the souls of those around me that night through the miracle that God performed in me and through me.  I thank the Lord for the grace to trust in Him, for the gift of faith that moved mountains and made the enemy panic.  I thank the Lord for giving me this time now to put into writing and immortalize this night of miracles in my life.  I am reminded by the theme of our Holy Week retreat with Bo Sanchez entitled Total.  One of the lessons shared with us in that retreat is that one secret of BIG returns in our lives as Christians is to give God our ALL. Total surrender!  Total offering of one's time, talent and treasure.

As I face new challenges in my life again, the memory of that night along with many other miracles God gave me in the past, serve as my spiritual landmarks.  They give me COURAGE and HOPE that what I’m praying for right now according to God’s Will would be granted in God’s perfect time.  They strengthen my FAITH as I take God at His Word anew. 
Let me end with these verses from Scripture:

“O LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done marvelous things, things planned long ago.” (Isaiah 25:1)

For you make me glad by your deeds, O LORD; I sing for joy at the works of your hands.  (Psalm 92:4)


A Pleasant Surprise from our Balcony

Our orchid Pinky in bloom.
I almost could not believe my eyes as I looked at our balcony and saw our orchid with flowers once more.

It has been months or maybe a year since Yanthy and I last saw our orchid, whom we named Pinky, with flowers. For many months, seeing Pinky without flowers, looking dry and seemingly dead made me and my son sad. There were days when we thought that Pinky’s already dead but we did not have the heart to give up on Pinky. We chose not to throw our orchid. We chose to not to give up hope that one day we will see Pinky with flowers again. We kept on watering our orchid and exposing it to the sun in our balcony.

Thus, imagine our joy and amazement as we saw Pinky blooming in our balcony in all her glory! Pinky had three pale pink with white flowers in bloom and three more buds waiting to wow me and my son! Amazing! We wouldn’t be this surprised and in awe if we didn’t know what happened in the past months or year. It pained us to glance at our window day after day and see Pinky in our balcony without flowers. But God turned our sadness into gladness and rejoicing! So, we hurriedly took pictures of Pinky again so that we have a remembrance of how beautiful her flowers have bloomed after what seemed to be a very long wait.

Then, it dawned on me that God used Pinky to encourage me and give me hope today by reminding me that He makes all things beautiful in His time. I realized that just like with Pinky, I should not give up on my dreams and prayer requests especially if I know deep in my heart that I seek to do God’s Will through these dreams and blessings.

So just like in today’s Psalm (27:13-14), I choose to believe that “I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” I choose to “wait for the Lord with courage; be stouthearted, and wait for the Lord.”

The message in my desk calendar confirms this message from God. It says: Keep believing. Trusting God doesn’t mean staying put and doing nothing. Trusting Him means doing all you can with all He gave you – with Him on your side.

Yes, that’s what I’ve been doing and will continue to do. I will do what is necessary within my abilities to make my dreams a reality and my prayers to be answered. Then, I will wait for the Lord to surprise and wow me just as He did today from my balcony. I praise and thank the Lord for speaking volumes to me in the magnificence of His creations! Thank you, Pinky for being God’s instrument in inspiring me to keep believing even when I do not see.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

20 Summer Activities with our Kids that are Budget-Friendly

It’s summer time! Parents and kids alike are excited to enjoy the good weather, the sun, and to go some place where their families can bond. But aside from going to the pool or beach to swim, can our families also have a good time together this summer? Yes, of course!

You might be asking, what other activities can the kids and the parents alike do that are simple and easy on the budget? Let me share some activities that I have identified last year before the summer months and which I continue to use as guide as I plan our summer activities. This list can be long and I don’t recommend that you stress yourself trying to squeeze each and every activity on this list in the next six weeks of summer. As I’ve mentioned, I started using this list as guide since last year. That means my family and I did not do all these activities last year and I’m not planning to do all of them either this year. We did some last summer. My plan is to choose from this list again a number of activities we can do this summer. So, I encourage you to just pick a few or a number from this list what you think would be most enjoyable for your kids and yourself and schedule when to do them in the coming days.
Yanthy with my parents during our picnic
to celebrate my father's birthday.
1. Have a picnic. I love picnics! Many of my happy memories as a child are during our family picnics. I’d like to continue this family tradition in my own family now. It’s simple and very affordable but the joys that it brings lasts a lifetime. We already had a picnic at Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife in Quezon City two years ago when my father’s celebrated his birthday with his first grandson. Yanthy was only a year old then. While it brought back good memories for me and my parents, it created new wonderful memories for my young family. One good thing about Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife is that the entrance fee is only P8.00 for non-students or adults and senior citizens enjoy free entrance. They also have picnic huts and picnic tables that you can use for free. So when we went there in the afternoon, we just brought with us food and drinks and enjoyed ourselves while having a picnic at one of the picnic tables. Yanthy had some time to wander around but the mini zoo was already closed by the time we were finished eating. The mini zoo is open only until 4 pm. Thus, we plan to go back again there in the future.

During an ocular of La Mesa Ecopark in preparation for
the outing of the singles in our community.
My husband and I, together with our kids, have yet to have a picnic at Rizal Park, UP Sunken Garden and La Mesa Ecopark. We’ve been to UP before to walk and run around when I was still pregnant with our second baby. Next time, we will definitely have a picnic and do more stuff together. My husband and I had been to La Mesa Ecopark several times in the past when we were still single. We had a lot fun there before with our single friends so we also look forward to having fun there with our tots. Just like in Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife, there is minimal entrance fee. It’s only P50.00 for non-QC residents. You can even grill your own food there because they have barbeque pits that you can rent for a small fee. That would make your picnic experience extra special.

2. Biking – You and your kids can do this in your neighborhood or at CCP Complex. My family planned to go to CCP Complex last year to bike but it didn’t push through. I hope we can go biking there this year at least one weekend since we go to PICC every Sunday to attend The Feast (our community’s weekly worship celebration with Holy Mass and talk). Just make sure that the kids are not left unattended especially when biking in areas where there are no assigned bike lanes and that they wear helmets while biking. This Sunday, my family and I will join in the celebration of Earth Day 2012 at the CCP. There will be plenty of activities such as family fun run, picnic for the planet, doodling, face painting and mural painting for kids, kite-making workshop, bike workshop and Larong Pinoy tournament and workshop among others to be facilitated by Greenpeace. The event will be from 6 am to 5 pm at Liwasang Kalikasan near the side of Aliw Theater. Purchase any of the souvenir items (baller ID and button pin) which are P50.00 only will already serve as entrance fee and ticket to participate in all of the activities. The family fun run at 6 am has a separate registration fee of P400.00. I’m so excited to go!

3. Make fruit shakes or smoothies together. – Let the kids help you wash and cut the fruits or if they are too young, involve them by letting them put the fruits that were already cut into smaller pieces into the blender and let them push the button in the blender. This is a healthy alternative to sodas and other drinks with caffeine and too much sugar. To make your drinks healthier, opt for yogurt instead of evaporated milk. We love making fruit shakes at home even when it’s not summer. Our favorites are papaya, banana and mango.

4. Play piko. - You may use a chalk to write on the cement. If you will play on dirt or soil, you can use a stick to draw on the ground. When my son and I cannot go out to play, we use his crayons to draw the lines on our floor and use Scotch Brite eraser pads to erase them when we’re done.

5. Play Frisbee. – Kids love to throw and run so I’m sure they will enjoy playing this game. I recommend that you play this game in big spaces like in UP Sunken Garden, La Mesa Ecopark, Rizal Park and other parks or fields near your place.

6. Fly a kite. – This is a great activity in big open spaces when the wind is strong. Some good places for flying kites are UP Sunken Garden, Esplanade near Mall of Asia and The Fort in Taguig. I learned earlier that there are people like the Fort Bonifacio Sport Kite Community who fly kites as a sport and you can watch them during weekends around 3 to 6 pm at The Fort. Sometimes, they would even give free lessons. Actually, every year NIDO organizes a Kitefest. This year, the NIDO Kite Fest was held last Sunday at Greenfield City Sports Field, Sta. Rosa, Laguna. We missed it this year but maybe we can attend a kite fest next year. We need to plan ahead for this since it’s a yearly event anyway.

Running after bubbles at a birthday party.
7. Blow bubbles. – This is fun in its simplest form. My little boy can spend so much time blowing bubbles anywhere you’d allow him to. I suggest that you always have bubbles with you because this is a sure boredom buster. Bring it with you when you go to parks and playgrounds. There are many kinds of bubble toys nowadays. You can choose from a wide variety from the smallest to the biggest bubble toys, from the manual to the battery-operated ones. Have fun with your kids taking turns in blowing bubbles and running after them.

8. Have an ice cream party. - You may want to make it a choose-your-own-topping ice cream party. Let the kids’ imagination run wild as they add toppings to their ice cream.

9. Make your own pizza. – This is similar to the concept of an ice cream party. You teach the kids how to prepare a pizza by buying frozen pizza dough from the supermarket or by using a pandesal that’s cut into halves. You and the kids spread pizza sauce or tomato sauce on top and decide what toppings to put on your very own pizza. Depending on the kind and size of dough you use, you can use your ordinary oven at home from the oven toaster to the convection oven, whatever you have.

10. Play badminton. – We started teaching our eldest son badminton last year when my husband and I played badminton again with some of our friends. We stopped for a while when my tummy was already big and I was nearing my due date. Maybe in the next month/s, we can get together again with friends to play one of our favorite sports.

Yanthy playing at the nearby playground
after his soccer camp.
11. Go to playgrounds in your own neighborhood or other nearby subdivisions and parks. - I loved going to parks when I was a little girl. My younger brother and I grew up in a neighborhood where there’s a nearby park and we loved going there and playing there with our cousins and childhood friends. Nowadays, there are plenty of parks and playgrounds to choose from and many of them are free of charge.

12. Have a puppet theater. - You can even make your own puppets that you’ll use in your puppet theater. I bought our eldest finger puppets and hand puppets when he was younger and we still play with them now especially when we tell stories.

13. Go to a charitable institution to share your blessings to the poor. – I’m excited to go to Tahanan ng Pagmamahal orphanage this month. I’ve decided to celebrate my birthday this month through an outreach. I’m organizing a princess-themed children’s party at the orphanage on April 28. This will be the first time for my son to participate in an outreach so I’m doubly excited for the event.

14. Play with clay. – You can even make your own home-made edible clay if you want instead of buying from the stores. This activity sparks kids’ imagination and creativity and improves their fine motor skills.

15. Go to a weekend market. – There are a number of weekend markets to choose from. There are weekend markets in Quezon City and in Makati. Not only do you find good deals and fresh products here, you also get to bond as you buy produce for your household. Plus you let your kids experience buying food and non-food items outside of the usual grocery or supermarket setting.

16. Do art activities or projects. – Unleash your creativity along with your child’s as you engage in more art activities and projects this summer. There are many simple art activities you can do together. You can ideas from my previous post here. If you are really bent on honing your child’s creativity and you have the budget for it, then there are many art programs you can choose from. There are even programs that allow parents to participate with their children so it becomes a wonderful binding and learning activity for the family.
Yanthy at his first soccer camp.
17. Play soccer. – This is an easy sport for the kids to learn and play since kids naturally love to run around and kicking is something that they learn fast. You just need a ball and plenty of space preferably with grass and your child will have his/her first experience of soccer. But you can also choose to enroll your kid to a soccer camp this summer like what we did with our eldest son who is now enrolled at Team Socceroo Summer Soccer Camp. Next year when he’s already four years old, I plan to enroll him at the Younghusband Football Academy.

Our first visit at Museo Pambata.
18. Visit museums. – There are a number of museums which are accessible and are easy on the pocket. We have already visited the Aerospace Museum in Villamor Airbase and Museo Pambata in Roxas Boulevard before. But we plan to go back to Museo Pambata again because there are other areas or theme rooms there that we weren’t able to explore the last time. They also have reopened new theme rooms. We only spent a half day touring the place then. I suggest that you allot at least a day to visit the place. You can also schedule several visits so you and your kids would have ample time to explore the different rooms. One of the things I like with Museo Pambata is that children below 2 years old can visit for free.

19. Go to the zoo. – Another memory of my childhood which I’m fond of is our visits to the zoo. I remember that my parents brought us to Manila Zoo a number of times when my brother and I were still small. We also went to mini zoos like the one at Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife. Now that I’m a parent myself, I plan to bring my kids to the zoo as well as one of our family field trips. One of the zoos in my list is Avilon Zoo in Montalban. It has a smaller counterpart in Pasig called Ark of Avilon so if you are not willing to travel all the way to Montalban, this is a good alternative.

20. Expose kids to music. – If your kids love music like my kids, I suggest that you expose them to different kinds of music by playing music at home often, letting them play with toy and real musical instruments and bringing them to concerts and performances. Let them meet musicians as well if you have the opportunity and if your musician friends. You can also let them join music and movement classes if you have the budget for it. One of our to-do’s since last year is to attend trial class of Little Mozart. But this is something that’s not limited to the summer months because it’s a year round program. I was planning to enroll my son since last year when he turned two in a music and movement class then I found out that My Masterpiece Movement has a program called Super Saturdays. I love the Super Saturdays program because my son likes it and he gets to interact with other kids. And believe it or not, it’s free! It is held every second Saturday of the month but there are exceptions like this Saturday, April 21, where my eldest son, Yanthy, will be joining for the second time.

Enjoy the summer heat and have fun with your family!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Waiting Expectantly: An Easter Reflection

"And God granted his request." I was reminded by God this morning as I woke up that He has already granted my request. God first impressed this message to me last Monday morning during my prayer time when He led me to review the prayer of Jabez in 1 Chronicles 4:10:

"Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory!" And God granted his request.

God granted his request. I felt God telling me in my heart that He has already granted my request. God granted my request. Wow! What wonderful news!

Then, to drive His message further, He spoke again to me through my desk calendar.

Keep Believing! God wants us to ask! And when we do, we should expect to get it. "Therefore I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours." – Mark 11:24

It shall be yours. Claim it as early as now. Wow! What a very encouraging message from God! I felt God telling me not to doubt as I wait for the good news to be told to me. He’s asking me to rejoice as early as now because whatever I’m asking for from Him is already mine. Amazing!

I praise and thank God for this beautiful message to me this morning. It gives me hope! It encourages me to keep believing that God has already answered my prayers and granted my requests. I was struck by the tense of the verse in 1 Chronicles 4:10. It’s in the past tense. It has been done. It already happened. Wow! I felt God telling me that even as I wait now for the good news from the people I had been talking to, God took care of everything already. He has done what I have asked Him to do for me. Wow!

I can't help but remember Tommy Walker's song entitled I Have a Hope.

These messages that I received from God today affirms God’s messages to me during the Grand Easter Feast as spoken by our leader Bo Sanchez. He said last Sunday that it truly is difficult to wait. But he spoke an encouraging message to all of us who are waiting for something or a prayer to be answered. He said, "You may be on Good Friday or Black Saturday now but your Easter is coming and is now here. Even when your circumstances, your problems, other people, your neighbors, or your finances are telling you that things are not well, God tells you, all is well. All is well! All is well because that’s what God tells you! All is well! Believe!"

God is so good and merciful! He knew that it would be challenging to wait for our prayers, requests and miracles to be granted that He gave us His promises so we can hold on to them as we wait for them to unfold before our eyes.

Just like the message of Easter Sunday, we are already victorious in Christ because Jesus Christ has conquered sin and death. We go through Good Friday and Black Saturday with hope because we know that our Easter is coming. Jesus knew He will resurrect on the third day. That helped Him go through His Passion. He knew He was doing the Father’s Will even though He was suffering. He knew that He will receive His crown of glory eventually when He sits on the right side of the Father in heaven.

One of the stories Bo shared was his experience with bullies when he was a kid. He said that he was like the morning entertainment to the bullies then and he just laughed about his situation because he could not do anything. He got used to the bullying already. Then, it happened that the biggest bully named Jesse asked for his help and became his friend. One morning, while Bo was walking and was starting to be surrounded by bullies again, his new friend Jesse walked towards him and placed his arm on Bo’s shoulders. He declared, "Eugenio (Bo) is my friend. Anyone who picks a fight with Eugenio, picks a fight with me!" With that statement, the bullies started to walk away from Bo one by one and they never bothered him anymore.

After Bo told this story, he said these words to all of us listening. You might be surrounded by bullies now. Your bully could be some of the people around you, your sickness, your finances, your problems and concerns… I want to tell you that you have a friend who stands beside you now. His name is Jesus. And Jesus says to those bullies, "You pick a fight with my friend here, you pick a fight with me! And I will fight you for my friend to the death!"

Tears just rolled down my cheeks as Bo said those words. God spoke powerfully to me through him. Last March 10, I also felt bullied by people much older than me. I felt bullied by people who outnumbered me. I felt surrounded by bullies who kept on insisting their will on me, who didn’t want to respect my decision, my beliefs and my choices as a person, as a Christian and as a leader. I felt that no one was on my side to defend me. But as I stood before the crowd that kept on bullying me with their actions (some of them rudely pointing their fingers on me as they spoke in an angry and loud tone of voice) and their harsh and insulting words, I felt Jesus’ powerful presence telling me that He stands by me no matter what. It was all that I needed to endure that experience. I recalled how Jesus Himself stood before a council of elders and how He was accused falsely. I remembered how he stood before a crowd mocking and insulting Him. recalled how people accused Him and hurt Him though He did not deserve that kind of treatment. I recalled how Jesus chose to be silent and chose not to defend Himself from their accusations, and how He just looked to God the Father for strength and courage to face and endure His situation. Remembering what my Lord, Master, Teacher and Leader did during His Passion enabled me to endure that night. I looked to Him for inspiration. I chose to follow His example and embraced my cross. I chose to obey the will of God the Father no matter how difficult and painful it was. I chose to remember that it was necessary to go through Good Friday before the Resurrection of our Lord. And so that’s what kept me going. I held on to the promise of the Lord’s resurrection that those who walk with Him to Calvary and die with Him will also resurrect with Him.

I Will Rise - Chris Tomlin (Music Video With Lyrics) from 24william24 on GodTube.

Thus, when Bo said those words to us last Sunday, I felt the amazing love and mercy of God on me. I felt His arms around my shoulders. I felt His tight embrace and the warmth of His love as He spoke those words to give me courage and strength. I felt Jesus’ personal love for me once more that day. He was and will always be my defender and my shield. I remembered the verses in Exodus 14:13-14 which was part of the passage (Crossing the Red Sea) I studied with three others on that same night.

Moses answered, "Don’t be afraid! Stand your ground, and you will see what the Lord will do to save you today; you will never see these Egyptians again. The Lord will fight for you, and all you have to do is keep still!"

God spoke further to me through Bo. He likened our problems to gold mines. He said that it’s necessary to go through gold mines if we want to get gold. He said that when we go inside gold mines, we need to go through darkness, dirt and danger. We need to uncover the dirt to get our gold. He said that our problems are gold waiting to be uncovered. In addition to that, he said that the more problems we have, the more gold we have!
I pondered on my life experiences especially my recent gold mines and I couldn’t help but agree. It seems that I have passed through a lot of gold mines but I have also uncovered a whole lot more of gold in the process. Blessed be name of the Lord!
Moreover, I realized that when we are inside a gold mine, God gives us just enough light for the step we’re on. Just like when we hold a lamp inside a gold mine, the lamp illumines only the next step in front of us. Rarely do we get to use a light that enables us to see the end of the tunnel. But it’s okay. We know that eventually, as we take one step at a time using our lamp, we will get out of the gold mine. In the same way, as we let the Word of God light our every step, we know that eventually, we will get out of our problems victorious and we will get our gold. Our gold maybe the blessings and miracles granted to us or our answered prayers. I believe though that the greatest gold we get out of our problems is the deepening of our faith. God brings us from glory to glory as we go through problems or trials in our faith journey. He lets us go through them not to break us but to test our faith and help us grow in faith. He allows us to go through suffering and pain to bring us closer to Him, so that He can draw us near His Sacred Heart.

I would consider this Lent and this Holy Week my most meaningful Lent and Holy Week so far. I felt privileged to enter into Jesus’ experience of His Passion. I felt closest to God as I cried out to Him telling Him that I am poor in spirit. I saw vividly how God’s Words in Scriptures come alive in my life so beautifully. I felt unexplainable joy amid trials and pain. I felt so blessed to be chosen by God to share His sorrows and His pain. I came to understand Jesus’ way of the cross profoundly through my experiences. And I am humbled to realize that what I went through and go through in life pale in comparison to what He experienced and endured because of His great love for me. Who am I that He is mindful of me? Who am I that He chooses to be my friend and die for me? Who am I that He chose to die for me and save me?

Then, Bo exhorted us to rise up and BOUNCE whenever we encounter problems. He encouraged us to BOUNCE BACK when we fall on the potholes in the road of life. He encouraged us to keep on saying ALL IS WELL as we keep on bouncing in the road of life.

So today, I choose to wait expectantly. God has wiped away the tears in my eyes. He has turned my mourning into dancing again. He has lifted my sorrows! He has assured me that ALL IS WELL. I believe Him. I accept His Word and His promise as truth. I let Him define my reality. I choose to hope in Him for I know that with Him I do not hope in vain.

Let me end by praying the prayer Bo taught us and encourage us to pray at The Feast.

Today, I receive all of God’s love for me.
Today, I open myself to the unbounded, limitless,
overflowing abundance of God’s universe.
Today, I open myself to God’s blessings, healing, and miracles.
Today, I open myself to God’s Word
so I would become more like Jesus every day.
Today, I proclaim that I am God’s beloved,
I am God’s powerful champion.
And because I am blessed, I am blessing the world.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.