Sunday, March 31, 2013

Holy Week Visit to an Orphanage: One of my early birthday gifts from God

My husband and I planned early in Lent to have an outreach for our family during the Lenten season.  Then, we became so busy with deadlines and many other things and the release/delivery of our new vehicle happened much later than expected.
Our busy days became busy weeks and Lent was almost over.  Deep inside I was still hoping and wishing we could go to a charitable institution or to the same orphanage that we visited last year to celebrate my birthday.
Then, God surprised me when one of the servants managing the orphanage for girls where we went last year told me that they are still free on Holy Wednesday afternoon. Yes!  God answered my heart's desire!  Perfect timing because our van was already delivered.
The last few days leading to the outreach were again very busy days.  I hardly had time to plan and prepare.  But by God's grace, I was able to think of simple activities.  Since my advance birthday celebration fell within Holy Week, I decided to tone it down.  No cake, ice cream or balloons like last year. No more fancy decors or fancy loot bags.  It was much simpler compared to my Disney Princess-themed birthday party last year.
Our simple activities were graced by God's presence and our simple outreach turned out to be so much fun, not just for the kids of Tahanan ng Pagmamahal but also for me and my husband, my friends and my two kids. 
We started our simple program with the teaching of songs led by my ever-dependable husband who played his guitar.  My eldest son could not resist to join his Dad.  He played his guitar as well while singing with us.
My husband and his little assistant playing the guitar.  My little Mateo walking and dancing around
while Kuya Yanthy and Daddy teaches some songs.

Here is one of the songs that we taught them.  My son loves this song and he enjoyed helping his Dad teach this to the kids in the orphanage.  The kids in turn loved how my eldest son sang his heart out and played his guitar with passion.

The other songs we taught were Jesus Loves the Little Children and John 3:16 Song which are some of the first songs my kids learned from me.  Click on the song titles to watch a video of the songs.
My husband and I explained the meaning of the songs a bit to the kids as we taught them then we used the songs to lead them in prayer.  After that, we distributed John 3:16 book marks that I got from Christian Preschool Printables.  I instructed them to decorate, color or jazz up their bookmarks.  We provided them with coloring materials, yarns and ribbons.  Each child, including my eldest son and the daughter of one of my college friends who joined us, got busy right away with their masterpieces. 
The girls in the orphanage busy with their book marks with my college friend and her daughter.
My eldest son proudly shows his book mark.
Yanthy, my eldest, finished his book mark fast.  He went to the dining area eagerly and took the initiative to help out in setting up the table and preparing the food for the kids while the other kids continued to decorate their book marks.  He patiently prepared with the other volunteers and he didn't even rush to eat his share.  He waited until all the food are prepared and most kids were finished with their book marks before asking if he can already eat.  So we said grace before meals with the rest of the kids and those who were finished were asked to line up and their food and drinks were given to them.
I ordered food (spaghetti) from Amber once more just like last year.  Earlier that morning, we made some sandwiches. We also bought cartons of juices and marshmallows for the kids.  A couple friend who came to join our activity brought some Yakult and chocolate drinks in tetra packs and pizza.
The kids jammed some more with my husband after eating merienda/afternoon snack.  Then, I had a word hunt game inspired by 1 Corinthians 13.  We gave chocolates to the first three girls who found all the words that were listed. 
Then, I asked Yanthy and Cate to distribute our brown bag loot bags to the girls in the orphanage.  Each loot bag has a rosary aside from the sweet treats.
We had a closing prayer and the kids surprised us with a very moving song.
I felt so blessed that day!  I was blessed to be given the chance to serve God's favorites again and to bring Christ's love to them on Holy Week.  I felt blessed to witness my son happy to serve the Lord's favorites in his own little ways.  I pray that he would continue to do so when he grows up.  Moreover, my family had another meaningful bonding activity to celebrate my birthday and to bring God's message to others during the Holy Week.  God is so good!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Random Reflections on Today's Readings

It's Good Friday and it's a day of fasting and abstinence.  But instead of sharing a meatless recipe today, I'm going to share my random thoughts and reflections as I read the readings today.
My husband and I attended a two-half day (Holy Thursday and Good Friday morning) live out retreat led by Bo Sanchez in PICC.  It was a spirit-filled and powerful retreat!  I'm still letting the words of God sink into my heart.  I will certainly blog about my reflections soon.
But today before I sleep, let me share these verses that caught my attention and my thoughts about them.
"I find no guilt in him.” John 19:6
That was what Pilate said about Jesus. But he still didn't have enough courage to stand by his belief. He was afraid of the crowd. He didn't want to go against what they believed in even when he thought that they were wrong.

How many times have we been witnesses to injustice or unfair treatment or judgement yet we chose to be silent? Like Pilate, have we been cowards, too? How many times have we betrayed Jesus by not standing up to Him and our belief in Him. There are still modern day Pilates and we can be one of them when we choose not to defend the innocent because of our fear of the crowd.
The service of the Gospel will bring you into conflict with the world, and that conflict will initiate suffering. - Didache
Jesus lived His life fully in the service of the Gospel. He lived to love us. He lived to carry out the Father's Will and perfect plan of salvation for humankind.  He got into conflict with the powerful people of His time because of this.  He suffered because of this.
How about us?  How willing are we to be in conflict with the world to bring the Gospel to the ends of the earth? Or even to our neighbors or officemates?  Are we really willing to suffer for the sake of the Gospel?  Or do we tell God about our conditions or limits on what kind of sufferings for the Gospel we are willing to endure?
"Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth..." Isaiah 53:7

He is the Son of God and yet when people treated Him harshly He chose not to defend Himself. He chose to be humble and silent. How many of us today can do what Jesus did? Can we also be humble enough to remain silent and not defend ourselves while being treated unjustly and harshly by our enemies? 
What Jesus did is no easy thing.  It was humbling. It was humiliating. Yet He endured it all. Why? He loved us. 
Let's ask ourselves: When was the last time we endured a humbling experience or humiliation because of love for someone or because of our love for God?
Today, Jesus gave us a perfect example of up to what point we should be ready to suffer for the Gospel.  He showed us what courage looked like.  May we be inspired and strengthened by His example, by His life, by His love.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Save on Grocery by Making Homemade Baby Food

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that “infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development and health. Thereafter, to meet their evolving nutritional requirements, infants should receive nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods, while continuing to breastfeed for up to two years or more.” Some parents might be surprised to read this because some health care providers, including doctors, suggest that babies be introduced to solids as early as four months of age. This is the updated/latest directive not only from the World Health Organization but also from other trusted authorities such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, UNICEF and Australian Government National Health and Medical Research Council among others. You may click here and here to read articles that summarize the benefits of delaying the introduction of solids to babies to six months of age at least.
Many parents however think that making homemade baby food is a lot of fuss so they simply buy baby foods from groceries which are packed in jars or in boxes. But these baby foods are quite expensive, aside from the fact that most of them are available in blended variants and flavors, not really ideal as baby’s first food. It is recommended by doctors that babies try out one kind of food at a time when they are already six months old.
We chose the path less travelled by parents. We have decided to give our second child homemade food instead of store-bought baby foods when he started to eat solid food. Let me share some of our reasons for making this choice.
  • We have greater control of our baby’s diet. We are able to plan our baby’s diet and implement it without being dependent on what is in stock in the grocery.
  • We know exactly what goes into the baby food.
  • We can make sure that our baby’s food does not lose its nutrients because we are the ones who prepare or cook the food.
  • We are sure that what our baby is eating is natural and fresh. We didn’t like to use preservatives or other artificial flavors on our baby’s food. We didn’t even put salt until he was one year old because we wanted him to be familiar with the natural flavor and tastes of foods.
  • We are able to save grocery money because it’s more economical.
  • Unlike what most people think, it’s convenient. We cook in batches so each batch can last up to 3-5 days. We simply store the baby food in ice cube trays with cover and freeze it. Then, we reheat just enough for each serving or meal.
  • Now that our baby is older, the baby gets to eat the same foods that the whole family eats so we are able to save much on groceries.

    Here's a handy helper in making your baby food.
    How do you make homemade baby food?
    Click here to continue reading this article.  This was published today at The Philippine Online Chronicles.

    Waiting on the Lord this Holy Week

    The verse that struck me the most in today's readings is from Psalm 27:14 which says, "Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!" (ESV)
    In another version (ISV), it is said this way, "Wait on the LORD. Be courageous, and he will strengthen your heart. Wait on the LORD!"
    I looked up the different versions of the verse here and was led to read and meditate on other parallel verses which I found very helpful in understanding God's message more.  Let me share some of the things I read that helped me understand what God was telling me through this verse.
    Psalm 25:3 "No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame..."
    Psalm 37:34 "Hope in the LORD and keep his way. He will exalt you to inherit the land;"
    Psalm 62:5 "Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him."
    Psalm 130:5 "I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope."
    Isaiah 25:9 "In that day they will say, "Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the LORD, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation."
    Lamentations 3:25 "The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him;"
    Here is a commentary from Barne's Notes on the Bible that further enlightened me:
    "Wait on the Lord - This is the sum of all the instruction in the psalm; the main lesson which the psalm is designed to convey. The object is to induce others, from the experience of the psalmist, to trust in the Lord; to rely upon Him; to come to Him in trouble... to wait for His interposition when all other resources fail."
    He added, "in all times of danger and difficulty, instead of despondency, instead of sinking down in despair, instead of giving up all effort, we should go forward in the discharge of duty, putting our trust solely in the Lord."
    Here's another inspiring line from The Treasury of David:
    "Wait on the Lord." Wait at his door with prayer; wait at his foot with humility; wait at his table with service; wait at his window with expectancy."
    Another commentary said that the first wait means wait in expectation; while the second simply means wait as if expecting new measures of help.
    What is God's message to me in all these?
    First, He's asking me to to let my soul and body rest for I have been stressed and now sick with colds and sore throat.  Second, He is asking me to let go of my attachment to results and of relying on my own strength.  Third, He is giving me hope, courage and confidence that He will not fail me as I put my hope and trust in Him.  He will give me the help that I need to accomplish what He has called me to accomplish.
    What will I do now to respond to His Words to me today?
    I'll be sending my draft/manuscript to a copyeditor and trust that with her help, God will use her to improve on my work.  Instead of stressing about how to improve it this Holy Week, I'm deligating it to her so I can rest in body and spirit and be nourished and refreshed by God.

    I will push through with the outreach to an orphanage I planned for Holy Wednesday.

    I will focus on the retreat that my husband and I will attend from Holy Thursday to Black Saturday.
    Moreover, I will do what I can to promote again our condominium unit that is still for sale and trust that God will help us pay for the remaining balance in our downpayment so we can move to our new house soon.
    In both of these concerns, I will choose to trust and wait on the Lord with great expectation.  I will not let worry or any negativity bring me down or discourage me.  I will look forward to great things for the Lord has told me in the past that He has called me to do great things!
    I will continue to bask in prayer and rely on the power of His Holy Spirit to help me endure the wait.

    Saturday, March 23, 2013

    Charged to Inspire and Bring Christ's Message and Love

    I'm so thankful to God for a very inspiring reflection yesterday in Didache.  The author shared about lives that had been miraculously changed or transformed.  Let me quote how he ended his reflection.
    You may ask, how did these miracles come to be? Because of one hard-hitting influence. One life-changing witnessing. One story of transformation.
    Because your personal history is His Story.
    You were changed by One.
    Now, go into the whole world and change another one.
    God also touched my heart through another spirit-filled worship last night in our prayer meeting at Feast Sucat.  We sang I'm Counting on God, Through Christ and Still Standing.  I felt empowered and refreshed after that.  This inspired me as I continued to prepare my materials for my talk today.
    This morning, God blessed me once more with inspiration through Loyola Press' 3-Minute Retreat.  Let me share some of the slides that I found striking.
    I'm grateful to God for allowing me to take part in His mission and to continue in my own way what He has started.  Reading these words today reminded me that indeed all our experiences happen for a purpose.  It helps give meaning even to the pains that we gone through.  Today, I felt that God asked me through these reflections to share about how I was broken and how God has restored me when He led me and my bridegroom to each other.
    "We are the instruments by which the Gospel is proclaimed in our time." - commentary on the First Reading from Companion/Kerygma Family

    Friday, March 22, 2013

    Recipes for Meatless Fridays: Seafood Paella or Paella de Marisco

    I almost forgot that I needed to blog about a meatless recipe today.  I was busy preparing for my talk/presentation tomorrow among other domestic concerns when I realized that it's already afternoon and I haven't posted a meatless recipe.
    Anyway, I choose to post about one of my favorite dishes today -- Paella.  Paella is a popular dish from Spain.  It originated in Valencia but later became popular in the entire region and eventually outside of Spain.  You may read here to learn more about its origin. 
    Traditional Paella has meat (like chicken or sausages) but since it's Lent, I'm sharing here the Seafood Paella version.  I have tasted both versions - traditional and seafood only -- and both are very delicious.  There are many versions or ways of cooking Paella actually and it is said that it varies depending on the style and preference of the one cooking it.

    Let me quote from an article published last year in Inquirer Lifestyle:

    “To talk about real paella is difficult. We have thousands of recipes. If you go to Spain and you are in the main towns in the middle of the Iberian Peninsula, the paellas will be more on meat and vegetables. They will be adding pimentón or Spanish paprika.

    “If you are in the coastline, the paella will be more on fish and seafood, and if you are from the north of Spain, the paella even does not have yellow color because they don’t use saffron.

    “When I came to the Philippines, the difference is the hard-boiled egg and chorizo de Bilbao, and the big amount of toppings, like seafood, chicken, etc.”

    I searched the net for some Seafood Paella recipes that you can try one Friday this Lent.  It actually isn't as difficult as it seems.  Try a recipe first before concluding that it's only for seasoned chefs.
    If you're not up to cooking your own Paella but are still craving for one, you can just head to Spanish restaurants in your area. In Manila, you can go to Casa Armas, Alba's, Las Paella'sLas Flores, Pio's Kitchen and other restaurants that feature spanish cuisine.
    Que se diviertan comiendo!  

    Thursday, March 21, 2013

    My One Month Storybook Assignment

    I had a headache yesterday and the other day.  I suspect that it was partly because of the summer heat and partly because of the stress of needing to finish one of my manuscripts soon... and soon means end of this month.  That's part of taking God's Word to heart and acting on it as I heard it during the Truly Rich Club's Wealth Summit. Apart from that, I'm scheduled to give a talk also to single ladies this Saturday afternoon.
    One of my partners in one of my book projects asked me before if I can write one children's story in a month.  We want to launch three children's stories and he was thinking that maybe I can write one in the next three months.  I really laughed the first time I heard it and told him that it usually takes months to write a book.  Some even take years.  But I said that I'll think and pray about it.  Then, came the Truly Rich Club's Wealth Summit.  It was just the start of the program and one of the emcees shared with us (participants) that he is launching his book that weekend -- a book that he wrote within one month.  He shared how  his co-author asked him to write his manuscript in one month also.  He was also surprised when he heard this but took on the challenge.  And they launched it that weekend in the Wealth Summit.  Wow!
    I was struck because I felt that God spoke to me through him.  I felt that God just issued me an order and affirmed me that it's possible to write a book in one month.  I definitely could not do it on my own especially since I'm not really an experienced author.  This is also my first time to write a children's storybook!  So, I'm doing two things that I've never done before with this project.  I chose to believe however that what is impossible for me is very possible for God.  So, if God wants me to do this, I'm confident that He will enable me to accomplish this.  I know that it was God who led me to this project.  I know that He made a way for me to be involved here because He wanted to use me.  All I need is to rely on Him to supply what is lacking in me.  My battlecry therefore is this: I can do all things in Christ who gives me strength.

    I'm almost done reading the book that our emcee and speaker authored.  It was a great book! Very inspiring!  I hope to write something good and inspiring as well within this month of March.
    I found inspiration and encouragement in this episode of Preacher in Blue Jeans which I watched today.

    Paolo exhorted the viewers to have confidence in themselves and in God.  Just the perfect message for me today when I'm feeling not so confident.  I'm on my fourth draft now of my manuscript and I choose to offer to God this work of my hands.  I gave myself until Sunday to work on it.  I have also decided to focus on preparing for my talk tomorrow afternoon until Saturday morning.  As Paolo said in the video, "one project at a time."
    Working on these projects and assignments can be tiring even when all these are related to my passions.  What keeps me going is the confidence in my heart that it was God who placed these desires in my heart and who led me to these projects.  Most of all, I'm confident that God who called me and anointed me for these tasks will be my wisdom and strength. 

    Sunday, March 17, 2013

    An Encounter with Jesus that changed them

    "they went away one by one, beginning with the elders." John 8:9

    The Gospel today tells of a woman caught in adultery. Those who caught her wanted to stone her to death. (Have you ever wondered how they caught someone in the act of adultery?)  But their encounter with Jesus changed their mind and their actions. They were so eager to throw a stone at her in the beginning; but something in their encounter with the Lord moved them not to continue what they originally wanted to do.

    Photo source here.

    We all need this encounter with Jesus - whether we are one of those holding a stone in our hand or the one who is in danger of being stoned. For indeed all of us are sinners but do we really need to gang around someone whom we think has done something wrong? Are we really in the position to judge that person? 

    The Bible says, "“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye..."  Matthew 7:1-5 

    Why don't we pause for a while and ask if we are not guilty of the same sins by which we want to stone our neighbor? Maybe by doing that, we would encounter Jesus and we too would be transformed by Him.

    Update: This post is linked to the Catholic Bloggers Monthly Link-up Blitz for the month of March.

    Friday, March 15, 2013

    Recipes for Meatless Fridays: Seafood Kare-Kare

    It's another beautiful Friday of Lent!  Today, I will share about a dish that I first tried when I was still a college student taking up Hotel and Restaurant Administration in the University of the Philippines in Diliman.
    It was also Lent at that time and we were planning for our catering class.  My groupmates and I thought of making a delicious twist to the traditional Kare-Kare which is usually cooked with beef.  The result was still a delicious Kare-Kare with new ingredients.
    What we did was to simply blanch the vegetables so as not to lose their nutrients and to prevent them from becoming soggy.  We did not mix the vegetables right away with the sauce.  We put the vegetables when the dish is about to be served.  We chose to put one kind of fish which has firm flesh that's cut into bit-size squares (to ensure it won't flake easily when cooked), mussels, shrimps and squid rings. 
    I have lost our original recipe so I've decided to look for similar Kare-Kare recipes in the web that I can share with you.  You may choose from these recipes which you think would best suit your taste and which seafoods to include.  You may also choose to make your own peanut sauce from scratch (which my groupmates I did before) or use the store-bought ready to mix sauce.  We also did not mix the bagoong or shrimp paste right away to the sauce.  It was served with the dish but placed in a smaller container.
    Seafood Kare-Kare
    Try one Seafood Kare-Kare recipe and let me know how you find it?  A grace-filled Friday to you and your family!

    Sunday, March 10, 2013

    Believing that Nothing is Impossible by the Grace of God

    God spoke powerfully to me through the recent Truly Rich Club Wealth Summit event that my husband and I attended last weekend.  He did this through the invited guests and speakers in the event, through the talks, through the many wonderful people I met and through the songs used in worship.

    Last Friday, God spoke to me again through the songs sang during our prayer meeting at Feast Sucat.  One of those songs was Nothing is Impossible by Planetshakers.

    This morning, God spoke the same message to me during my prayer time as I meditated on Loyola Press' 3 Minute Retreat for today entitled Nothing is Impossible.
    God truly knows my heart.  He knows what to speak at the precise moment.  These past days beginning with the Wealth Summit, God has inspired me a lot and taught me a lot. One of my main questions and frequent questions to God has been, "Can I really do all these given my already busy schedule even before I got all these new inspirations and learnings?" Jesus only has one answer.  "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."  Matthew 19:26
    I thank the Lord for this reminder and encouragement.  He also used another song during our prayer meeting last Friday to help me pray to Him and express what's in my heart, mind and soul.  Let me share that song as well.  It's Still Standing by Israel Houghton.

    Here are the lyrics from
    Verse One:
    You gave me courage to believe that all your goodness I will see
    and if it had not been for you standing on my side where would I be

    If not for your goodness if not for your grace I don't know where I would be today
    if not for your kindness I never could say I'm still standing
    if not for your mercy if not for your love I most likely would have given up
    if not for your favor I never could say I'm still standing but by the grace of God

    Verse Two:
    To you I lift my offering and set my heart on higher things
    for if it had not been for you standing on my side where would I be

    I'm still standing I'm standing I'm still standing but by the grace of God

    I love the chorus very much! It's so true in my life.  I know that it's only because of God's mercy, goodness and favor that I am where I am now in spite of the many difficult things I've been through. And I know that wherever I will find myself in the future, it will be because of God still and His awesome goodness, mercy and grace in my life.

    To God be the glory now and forever!

    Friday, March 8, 2013

    Rejected for Speaking the Truth

    "People (like the Scribes and Pharisees) didn't like to listen to Jesus because He was speaking the Truth. They didn't like to hear the Truth because the Truth hurts... It was one of the reasons why they rejected Him," said Fr. Eric Santos last Friday in his homily during the Mass.

    Fr. Eric went on to explain the readings and how the First Reading relates to the Gospel and Jesus.  He related how the experience of Joseph, son of Jacob/Israel, is in a way similar to Jesus’ experience of rejection.  Both of them were rejected for telling the truth.  There were people around them who heard the truth they have spoken and because of that, these people plotted against them.  Then, in the end, they saved the same people who betrayed them or caused them harm.

    “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”  Matthew 21:42

    These same things still happen in our modern world today.  There are people who simply choose to follow Jesus’ example and are rejected for speaking the truth.  There are Christians who simply choose to be vocal about their beliefs and who choose to be bold enough to admit their stand on certain issues in our society today but they are persecuted for doing this.  This isn’t surprising for if the Master suffered, it follows that His followers will also suffer.  Manny Pacquiao and Miriam Quiambao are the celebrities that came to my mind as I listened to the homily.  They simply shared their beliefs about homosexuality and yet people were so fast in speaking against them as if they committed a crime.  I admired their courage to speak about their beliefs in this modern world where many Christians hesitate to declare the truth about what they believe in for fear that people would say something against them.  Some Christians are so cautious to lose the approval of people; yet are not as cautious in offending God or hurting Him.

    Jesus said in Matthew 10:33, “Everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven.”

    The Truth will remain the Truth whether we proclaim it or not.  The Truth will be revealed whether we choose to be bearers of the Truth or not.  This Lent, may we allow the Truth to transform us to be more like Christ.  May we choose to be vessels of the Truth and not refuse to be mouthpieces of God.

    Let’s ask ourselves this question: What truth from God am I denying and refusing to transform me? 

    Author's note: This was published today at The Feast Sucat Bulletin.

    Offering my five loaves of bread and two fish: Full Life Cube

    I was struck with these words from Loyola Press' 3 Minute Retreat last March 5, 2013 entitled Blessed and Broken.
    I was most especially moved by these lines:
     "By providing food for the multitudes, Jesus teaches us how our unconditional trust in God can turn the smallest gesture into a great grace... he calls the disciples to step out of their comfort zone and do something that must have felt futile in the face of so many hungry people. Today Jesus asks us to do the same; allow God to show his care and generosity abundantly through our efforts."
    As soon as I read these words, I knew right away that God wanted me to offer something.  So, I asked myself.  "What are my three loaves and two fish?"  The answer came easily.  I acted on it right away by writing my ideas on what I can offer to bless others.  I continued to mindstorm for days and shared my ideas with my husband who in turn gave me feedback and helped me put up a simple website.
    Putting up this website is definitely not my comfort zone.  Expanding the services that I offer as an HR person is also outside my comfort zone but I believe that God wants me to do this because I could make a difference to a lot of working people through this "new" service.  As He has pointed out to me recently, my experiences are not only for my benefit or for my family's benefit.  God allowed me to go through my unique journey as a working professional who eventually became a freelance consultant and business woman for a purpose.  He wanted me to use my skills, experiences and testimony to bless others and lead them to fullness of life.
    My website which I call Full Life Cube is still a work in progress but it already contains a lot of information about the services I offer to business start-ups and to employees or individuals.  It's another concrete way for me to say YES to God's call to offer the little that I have so He can bless it, break it and use it to nourish His hungry people.  I pray that with this move, I would be able to touch more lives and lead more to fullness of life in Christ.
    Take a peek into my new website.  We will be updating it as soon as we find the best person/team to work on developing my membership site.
    Here's an excerpt from the Career Coaching and Counseling Page of my site.

    Do you have a burning question about your work or career?
    Do you badly need to talk to someone who preferably has experience in HR about your work/career concern?
    Do you experience problems in keeping a job? Have you been job-hopping for some time now?
    Do you need to make a career decision soon that can impact the other aspects of your life and you need to discuss your plans with someone who can give objective feedback?
    Do you need help in achieving work life balance in your current job or business?
    Are you contemplating on resigning from your job?
    Are you thinking of making a career shift but unsure if you should push through with it or how to do it?
    Do you need guidance in choosing which job offer to accept?
    Do you need help in determining which career path to take and what kind of jobs to pursue?
    Do you need help in clarifying your career goals?
    Are you eyeing a promotion or a position but you’re not sure how you can be qualified for that position?
    Do you need help in developing a long-term career plan?
    Do you need help in developing a plan to help you transition from being an employee to an entrepreneur?
    Do you need help in tracking your progress in moving towards implementing your career plan and achieving your career goals?
    If you answer YES to ANY of these questions, getting a Career Coach and Counselor could be what you need to get started in your quest to solving your FULL LIFE CUBE.

    There's still a lot of work to do after all the learnings and inspirations I gained from the 2013 Wealth Summit organized by Bo Sanchez' Truly Rich Club.  It can be tiring at times like these past few days when I had been working long hours to fine-tune my ideas and putting them in this new website.  But I'm thankful to God for the grace to act on His Word and to move closer to where He wants me to go.  My new adventure with God is just beginning. 

    "The secret of getting started is breaking your complex, overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one." - Mark Twain

    To God be the glory!

    Update: This post is linked to the Catholic Bloggers Network Monthly Link-up Blitz for the month of March.

    Recipes for Meatless Fridays: Baked Mussels (Baked Tahong)

    It's Friday once more!  Sorry that I was not able to post a meatless recipe last Friday. I totally forgot to make a blog post due to my very hectic schedule in the past week.  I came home late from a meeting in Makati for one of the books I'm writing last Thursday and the following Friday morning, my husband and I went to PICC early to attend the Wealth Summit which was totally awesome! Anyway, you may read some of my posts about that event here and here.
    Now, since it's another Friday of Lent, let me share another favorite meatless recipe of mine.  I love this dish!  It's so quick and easy to prepare.  You can even ask your small kids to help you prepare it.  It's so cheap.  And most of all, it's so delicious!
    Mussels are abundant in the Philippines especially in the coastal areas that's why they are cheap. You just need to make sure that you buy the fresh ones to prevent potential problems after cooking or eating them.  Also, always check if there's a "red tide" alert before buying.
    I have not heard of a red tide alert reccently so here's my Baked Mussels or Baked Tahong Recipe.
    Baked Mussels (Baked Tahong)
    1/2 kilo of mussels, cleaned and boiled so the shells would open
    1/2 cup to 3/4 cup of softened salted butter
    6-8 cloves garlic, pounded and minced
    finely chopped fresh parsley
    grated quickmelt cheese
    black pepper to taste (optional)
    1. Soften butter in a sauce pan. Then remove from heat.
    2. Mix all the ingredients (butter, garlic, parsley) well in a bowl except the grated quickmelt cheese.
    3. Remove the other half of the shell or the cover from the mussel.
    4. Spoon the mixture into each mussel shell. It should be enough to cover the mussel.
    5. Top with grated quickmelt cheese.
    6. Bake in oven toaster or regular oven for 5-10 minutes depending on the size of your mussels.  The bigger ones take longer to cook.  I suggest you test using a few mussels before baking a big batch to prevent burning your mussels.
    7. Serve hot as appetizer or with rice as part of the main meal.
    I cooked this dish for one of my birthday celebrations years ago and it was a hit!  Try this recipe and get back to me for your feedback, okay?  A blessed Friday to all!
    If this is your first time to stumble into my blog, you may check out my one of my latest Lenten posts here and my previously posted meatless recipes such as Crusted Tilapia Fillet, Paksiw na Bangus and Spanish Sardines Pasta. Hope you'll come back again to read some more next time. God bless!

    Tuesday, March 5, 2013

    God creates hunger in our hearts for a purpose

    We lived in a small and old apartment when I was young.  I grew up in that room on the second floor of a row of apartments somewhere in Quezon City.  It was similar to the studio units that we have now in condominiums wherein everything is found in one room.  The receiving area, dining area and kitchen are all near each other.  The sleeping area would have been in sight if not for the partition that my parents built to provide some privacy.  We didn't have our own toliet and bath unlike the studio units we now have.  There were units like ours in that row of apartments that didn't have this facility.  Instead, there's a common toilet and bath at the end of this row of old apartments.  Since the apartments were already old, the toilet and bath was also old.  In fact, it was already dilapidated.  The floors of our home then had some cracks, big enough for me and my younger brother to play marbles in them. 
    I lived a happy childhood in that neighborhood where some of my cousins were our neighbors, too.  But I think there was a part of me that kept on telling me that I could live in much better place, in a more beautiful house.  And so from then on, I started dreaming of having our own house that is beautiful, spacious and has it's own toilet and bath.  Daydreaming, sketching and looking at books and magazines with pictures of beautiful houses were my favorite past times.  I even considered becoming an architect or a civil engineer.  I eventually changed my mind.
    Then, that row of old apartments had to be renovated and all the tenants had to leave.
    My parents didn't know what to do.  They couldn't find another apartment that is being rented out within the same range that they were paying in our old apartment.  They couldn't afford newer apartments either.  They didn't want to go back to their province because both of their jobs were in the city.
    They eventually decided to build a house in a land that wasn't ours.  The land was owned by the government and they found out about it through my mother's friend.  So from living in an old apartment, we ended living in the slums for years.
    My desire to live in a more beautiful house with a much better environment became stronger.  Deep inside I knew that it wasn't God's Will that we lived in that place.  I knew that it was beneath our human dignity.  So I asked God why He allowed it to happen.  He didn't give me an answer right away.
    Then, one evening, after coming from school and just before eating dinner with my family, I heard screams from outside. "Fire! Fire!"  I looked to the left.  I looked to the right.  I could not see the fire but only people running.  Then, I looked up and I saw that the house just behind the house in front of our house was on fire.  We tried to save as much possessions as we could but most of them were burned in less than an hour I think.  We were blessed to have survived unharmed with only my brother sustaining a few small wounds on his feet as he ran back and forth from our house to the street barefoot trying to save as much as he could.   
    I remember crying to one of our close family friends then telling him that we no longer have a house.
    Old apartment, slums then no more house because of fire.  It was really beyond my limited understanding.  There were a lot of times then that I struggled with God because I could not comprehend what He was doing in my life.  I got angry with God and got depressed.  For a while I didn't like to go to church or pray.  I even bought a small book entitled May I hate God?   
    But God's grace truly abounds that no amount of anger or depression can separate me from His love.  God eventually healed me from those pains.  Then, He used those pains and experiences to fuel my passion and determination to buy/build a house that my family and I could call our own.
    That dream became a reality shortly after I graduated from college and started working.  We found a small village which I thought was affordable enough given my parents' income and my income as a management trainee in a fast food restaurant.  From then on, I spent most of my money paying for the amortization, renovating it and decorating it to make it beautiful.  Finally, my dream became a reality.  It was not a big house but it was our own.  It had three small bedrooms - one for my brother, one for me and one for my parents.  It has a kitchen separate from the dining area.  It has a small receiving area and a small yard beside it big enough to park a vehicle or have a garden.  And we had our own toilet and bath. :)
    Then, I got married.
    My fiance and I didn't have enough money to buy a single detached house so we decided to buy two condominium units instead.  We put an adjoining door and those two units became the first home of our young family.
    It was really our plan to buy a bigger house and to sell our condominium units eventually.  But we were not in a hurry since we haven't found a property or house that we really liked.  Until, I saw this property that had almost all that I wanted in a property.  It was beautiful.  The neighborhood seems nice and quiet.  And it's literally a stone's throw from the church.  I liked it right away as soon as I saw it.  But we had one big problem... we didn't have enough money to purchase or even reserve it.  Then, God made a way and so we got to reserve the property and to this day we continue to pay for the property and we look forward to moving to it soon.
    Have we sold both of our condominium units? Not yet. Only one.  This moved me to ask God why once more.  Recently, He made me realize that one of His reasons for this is so that I would have a hunger in my heart once more that is so strong, strong enough to move me out of my current comfort zone.  God also answered this question in my heart through Brother Bo last weekend when Brother Bo said, "God wants you to use your talents to solve your problems.  God will provide for your needs but He also wants you to be part of the solution."
    God has blessed me tremendously in my career.  He has blessed me with abundance through my previous jobs.  Then, when I decided to become a stay-at-home mom, shortly after that, He blessed me with opportunities to earn from home through one of my hobbies (writing) and do consulting work on a per project basis.  I had been doing this for years now and usually, I would only choose to work whenever I feel the need to contribute to the family income.  That was not very often because God has been enabling my husband to provide for our needs and even some of our wants and because consulting and speaking in corporate events is a highly-paid service; so I simply wait for clients to come to me.  Again, God has been so gracious to me that I don't run out of clients and projects even when I don't market my services.  I relied mainly on word of mouth, repeat business and referrals from people in my network.
    Until we found this property that we so badly want to get because God promised us that He will give it to us.  (You can read more about how God spoke to me through this property here and here.)  At first I was disappointed with God because we are still selling one of our condominium units until now.  But God made me realize that this was simply His way of creating hunger in my heart once more to use my talent and skills to earn and contribute to our family income.  And in the process, God led me to discover His higher calling to me in scaling up what I had been doing for years. He made me realize that He wants me to do this not just for my immediate family or extended family or to purchase this property.  He knew that if I make that my reason for scaling up my current business, I would easily become complacent and stop working again as soon as I reach my goal of paying the property in full or furnishing it based on how I dreamed about it.  Having my dream house and dream vehicle simply would not be enough to keep me going.  So God placed a much bigger dream in my heart for a much greater, bigger reason.  He made that big reason much bigger than me or my family's needs.  You can read imy ultimate big why for wanting to scale up my business here in my previous post.

    Now, that I've discovered God's purpose and accepted His invitation, He has provided me with mentors.  As Dean Pax Lapid said, "The teacher appears when the student is ready."  I'm now ready to learn how to serve more people through my gifts.  May God bless me and my efforts as I respond to His call and follow Him.

    The new books I bought at the Truly Rich Club Wealth Summit last weekend.
    I praise and thank the Lord for creating in me this much hunger now enough to make a turning point decision in my life.  I thank God for disturbing my already comfortable life a few years ago to be in this wonderful adventure with Him.  What started to be a family adventure with God has become a much greater adventure which will involve more people.  Amazing!  God truly works in mysterious ways and I am awed at how He chooses to use very ordinary people like me to move His purposes forward.  It's humbling and at the same time amazing! 
    Are you hungry for something now (other than food)?  Have you paused to search your heart and ask God why He has created this hunger in your heart and soul?  This season of Lent is one great time to pause and ponder on your life events.  I pray that in the same way that God has revealed much to me this season of Lent, He too would reveal much to you as you take time to seek His purposes in your life.
    God bless!

    Update: This post is linked to the Catholic Bloggers Network Monthly Link-up Blitz for March.