Monday, January 26, 2015

Like Stars on Earth Movie Review

I first learned about this movie through a homeschool support group (on Facebook) that I'm a part of. One parent recommended this movie and shared that it was good. Another parent who already watched the movie left a comment saying that the movie can help more people understand giftedness. As soon as I read that comment, I clicked the link shared so I can check it out on YouTube. I searched Google for more information about the movie and after finding out from fellow parents that they also watched it with their kids who are almost the same age as mine, I told my husband that we will watch the movie as a family that same night. 

I'm so glad we did! It was an inspiring and moving film! 

Basically, it's about a twice exceptional kid (intelligent kid with a learning disability)  who was having problems in school. He was transferred to a boarding school by his Dad who was hoping that his school performance would improve after he is transferred. The boy's problem continued and he even got depressed because of the separation from his family. Things got better when a new art teacher met the boy and intervened; so that not only the boy's parents, but also the school teachers and principal would understand what's causing the boy's difficulty in school. 

Let me enumerate some of my reasons for liking this movie and why I would recommend it to all parents, whether they have gifted, twice exceptional or typical children.

1. It depicted many of the characteristics of gifted children in the child actor. My husband and I, together with our eldest son, were laughing at some point when we saw a series of scenes where the child in the movie was acting like our eldest son. The child in the movie had a very good imagination and he daydreams a lot of times, even while eating and during class. This makes him slow in finishing his meals. He also gets distracted by the things around him and some of these things trigger his imagination making him lose focus on what he is currently doing. In the movie, he was asked by the teacher to go out of the classroom because he was not paying attention. He was caught looking out of the window. 

Other characteristics of many gifted children like poor fine motor skills (manifested in poor handwriting), poor hand-eye coordination (shown in difficulty throwing the ball in the right direction), being prone to depression, tuning out and building a world of their own through their imagination and having difficulty fitting in were also shown .

2. It showed that parents need to be more understanding of their children's mistakes and seek to find out the possible causes of their difficulties in school and problematic behaviors. The parents of the boy were clueless to what was causing the child's poor performance in school. The mom was trying to help her son by spending time teaching him and helping him with school work when he gets home but the mom was also clueless on why his son's handwriting was terrible and why he was failing his exams. The dad was too harsh on both of his sons. He was usually saying bad words and demotivating words especially to his younger son who was failing in school. This contributed to the boy's poor self-image and self-esteem. 

It was only when the substitute art teacher, who happened to also teach in a school for kids with special needs, met the boy, looked into his case and intervened by talking to the boy's parents that they learned that their son has dyslexia.  

3. I liked how the teacher explained the boy's condition to his parents. The dad was blaming the boy for performing bad in school. The dad thinks that it's because of the boy's attitude and laziness. The teacher used a brilliant way to make the dad understand that it's not the boy's attitude that's causing the problem. He made the parents understand that their son needs help, support and understanding so he could get over his depression and perform better in school.

4. I loved what the teacher did to help the boy! He not only advocated for the boy to the school principal and his fellow teachers. He also spent extra hours teaching the boy to address his special needs. 

After the good art teacher invested time to help the boy, he performed better in school, which shocked his parents at the end of the term.

5. I liked that the movie showed how a child can blossom under the care and guidance of a good, loving and compassionate teacher/mentor. I wish more teachers and parents would be more accepting and supportive like this art teacher in the movie.

This is what I pray for... that we'd find good and loving mentors for my eldest son who is showing very good potential in becoming a talented musician.

6. I liked that the movie reminded those watching it that words have power to build or destroy. The negative words that the child often heard from those around him, including that of his parents, made him look down on himself and his abilities. 

This made me reflect and ask myself if I am also guilty of committing the same mistakes when dealing with my own children.

7. The movie reminds parents that the home should be a place where children feel loved, accepted and supported.

8. Last but not least, I liked that the school chose to accommodate a child with special needs and that the other teachers gave the child a chance after the art teacher volunteered to help the boy by tutoring him and enabling him to cope with the demands of the school.

The movie is in a foreign language but it has English subtitles so my husband and I, together with our eldest son were able to follow and understand it. The kids also enjoyed watching the movie. My kids are currently 6 and 3 years old.

It's a very inspiring and moving movie! Watch it even if your child does not have special needs! 

Click here so you can watch the movie in YouTube. Enjoy!

If you want to watch another film about a gifted child, I recommend that you check out my review of the movie Boses here 

Click here to find more articles about giftedness in media.

Friday, January 23, 2015

How Pope Francis' Messages Affirmed Me in My Decision to Homeschool My Kids

It has been four days since Pope Francis left the Philippines after his five-day visit to the country. But his words during his papal visit still ring loud and clear in my mind and heart. I felt that God spoke powerfully through him to affirm my decision to homeschool my kids.
Let me share some of his words that resonated with me.
1. Focus "on the things that really matter"
My main reason for choosing to homeschool my kids is because I want to focus on educating them with the things that really matter now that they are still very young. I want these important matters to be the foundation of their education.
There are many subjects and topics covered in the traditional school set up. Students are overloaded with these information; yet, many kids do not retain much of these information because they are not ready and because they were simply pressured to remember them so that they would pass their tests. 
As independent homeschoolers and as my kids' main teacher, I get to customize my kids' program/curriculum and teach them what I believe is most important to prepare them for the realities of life and for life eternal.   

One of the programs we have for example is the letter of the week wherein I did not only introduce the letters of the alphabet to my second child but I included Bible verses also and things related to our Catholic faith. My eldest child usually writes a Bible verse related to our letter of the week, which I also ask him to memorize. Then, he and his younger brother do an art/craft activity related to it.

Below are some photos for our activities with the letter P, inspired by the Pope's visit last week.

My second son's art work.

My eldest son's handwriting.

My eldest son's drawing.

My drawing/illustration while teaching them truths from the Bible through storytelling.
2. "What is the most important subject you have to learn at university? What is most important subject you have to learn in life? To learn how to love. This is the challenge that life offers you: to learn how to love. Not just to accumulate information without knowing what to do with it. But through that love let that information bear fruit."
I agree with the Pope! When I heard the Pope say this, I was reminded of a verse in the Bible which says, "If I do not have love, I'm simply a gong booming or a cymbal clashing."

My eldest son showing his love for his younger brother Mateo
by kissing him and reading to him.
Again, with the information overload, students are overwhelmed and find it hard to determine how to make good use of all these information they were supplied. The question is: do they need all those details/information for the career and life they want to have in the future? Or is it a waste of the children's time to study too many facts which may not be of value to them in their current situation or in the future?
In most schools, students are given very little time to play and be themselves because study takes so much of their time. When they get home, they need to study again because they have homework/assignments. They need to review for quizzes and tests.

In our homeschool, they have plenty of time to play because formal study time (meaning structured and planned by me) takes only a few hours and is interspersed with play time or meal time. Moreover, we emphasize that whatever they learn or whatever skills they acquire should be put to service of others and of the Church. Thus, when my eldest learned how to read, he would read to his baby brother. He passes on whatever new learning he has to his younger sibling. He has also made it his goal to learn to play Mass songs in the piano so that one day he can serve as pianist in the Church during Mass. He has actually done so once when we got to the Church one evening and there was no pianist.
3. "You know how to give and yet you have ever learned how to receive... Learn how to open your hand from your very own poverty."
Society puts a premium on being self-sufficient and independent. But the truth is that we are interdependent. Our children need to learn that no man is an island. That in order to succeed, we need not only be good in our field but we need to also work with people who can help us achieve our dreams and goals. As one of my favorite authors/mentors often say, "Build your dream team."
For in truth, we don't need to learn how to do everything ourselves. We need to learn to be open to receiving help from others. As the saying goes, "No one is too rich not to receive. No one is too poor not to give." 
4. "the Gospel offers us a serene way forward: using the three languages of the mind, heart and hands – and to use them in harmony... To think. To feel. To do. And all in harmony..." 
Schools and universities put too much emphasis on the mental development of students. In our homeschool, I am able to balance both instruction and practice in different areas. Most importantly, because I recognize that my kids are whole persons who have spirits, minds, hearts and bodies, I can integrate into our curriculum materials and activities that will address their needs in all areas.
5. "It is in the family that we first learn how to pray. And don’t forget when the family prays together, it remains together.  This is important.  There we come to know God, to grow into men and women of faith, to see ourselves as members of God’s greater family, the Church."
I'm very happy and I feel fulfilled that I have taught my kids how to pray. I believe that this is important lesson they need to learn in life. By learning how to pray to God, they know that whenever they need something -- be it something temporal or not -- they can turn to God who is omniscient and omnipresent.
6. "...if we do not pray, we will not know the most important thing of all: God’s will for us.  And for all our activity, our busy-ness, without prayer we will accomplish very little."
And let me add, we will accomplish very little of what is truly important.
This is something that I also believe is essential in my kids' education. It is only in and through prayer that they will discover God's Will for their lives. That is my second greatest dream for my kids: for them to discover God's will for their lives and live their lives according to His Divine Will. Of course my greatest dream for my kids is for them to spend their eternity with God in heaven.
7. "Faith does not remove us from the world, but draws us more deeply into it.  Each of us, in fact, has a special role in preparing for the coming of God’s kingdom in our world."
I do not only put much emphasis on our faith in our homeschool. In fact, I have made this the foundation of our homeschool. I'm teaching my kids these things because I believe that these would prepare them to live in the world where wolves abound.
8. "God calls upon us to recognize the dangers threatening our own families and to protect them from harm."
There are so many threats to the family as a whole and to its members. Relationships within the family are threatened by many harmful ideologies and concepts, which bring me to the Pope's next statements.
9. “Sadly, in our day, the family all too often needs to be protected against insidious attacks and programs contrary to all that we hold true and sacred, all that is most beautiful and noble in our culture.”
10. "While all too many people live in dire poverty, others are caught up in materialism and lifestyles which are destructive of family life and the most basic demands of Christian morality. The family is also threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage, by relativism, by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life."
The RH Bill has been recently passed in the Philippines and this is one of the reasons I don't want to put my kids in brick and mortar schools in the country. I do not agree with the ideas, methods and timing by which our government has integrated sex education in school materials. I feel that these materials that the government wants to use to "educate" kids in our country are actually polluting both their minds and souls. I want to protect my kids' innocence and purity as long as I can. I don't want them to lose these too early when they are not yet emotionally and physically prepared for these concepts and ideas. 

I also do not want my kids to be influenced by their classmates or peers to be materialistic. Kids nowadays are so concerned about fashion and gadgets. Kids want to have what toys or gadgets their classmates have. I also do not want them to be influenced by popular culture. I want them to be influenced by our faith. I want them to discover their own unique styles and preferences without being pressured to act and dress a certain way just to gain friends or be accepted. I don't want them to watch shows that do not add value to them but instead corrupts their values and do not challenge their thinking just to be included in conversations in school. (My kids do not watch tv.) I don't want them to be brainwashed that it's ok to have premarital sex; anyway, one can use condoms.
10. "So protect your families!   See in them your country’s greatest treasure and nourish them always by prayer and the grace of the sacraments."
One of the blessings/benefits of being homeschooling family that we experience is that we get to pray and avail of the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist as often as we want. We are able to go to Mass daily and we can spend ample time in prayer both individually and as a family.
11. "Do not hide your faith, do not hide Jesus, but carry him into the world and offer the witness of your family life!"
By choosing to homeschool our kids, we are actually making a statement with the way that we live our lives. We are communicating to those around us that it's possible to make your faith the foundation of your family life and of your children's education. It presents a counter-culture to what society considers as the norm.
12. "It is important to dream in the family."
It is a wonderful thing for dreams to start, flourish and be fulfilled in the family. I have witnessed this in our little and young family. My eldest son started dreaming of playing the guitar and the piano when he was still around 2 years old. It was a dream that was born out of our family's service to our community. I was then head of the Liturgical Committee. My family was always busy organizing and serving in the weekly Masses. He grew up witnessing this and it has become his dream to be part of the choir. It has become his dream to learn how to sing the songs in the Mass. It has become his dream to learn to play Mass songs in the piano. And all these dreams of my little boy came true one by one even at his tender age. It brings much joy into my heart to see my child blossom into the child that he is today. All these would have been fulfilled at a much later time or maybe not if he was not homeschooled. Because he is homeschooled, going to Mass has always been a priority. He can practice the piano daily if he wants to, day and night. He can spend hours if he wants to perfect a song. And he has the opportunity to use these skills, his gift of music to serve the Church. 

Below is a video of my eldest son (wearing long-sleeved white shirt with tie) singing with the choir during Midnight Mass last Christmas. 

13. “When families bring children into the world, train them in faith and sound values, and teach them to contribute to society, they become a blessing in our world.”

Values formation is another priority in our homeschool. These are more important to us than academic lessons. I have in truth experienced that values are much harder to teach than academics. We are blessed that our kids learn fast in the area of academics, particularly my eldest son. But it would take them a while to learn and adapt the values that we want them to learn and practice. It is said that values are caught, not taught. It helps to explain and have activities that pave the way for kids to understand certain values. But it is best to be role models to kids and to involve them in activities where they can see these values in action and where they too are given the opportunity to practice them or live them out.  
14. “Families have an indispensable mission in society.  It is in the family that children are trained in sound values, high ideals and genuine concern for others. But like all God’s gifts, the family can also be disfigured and destroyed.  It needs our support.”

In homeschooling, we can emphasize the values and ideals we want our children to espouse. We don't need to expose them to values that we do not approve of but are approved and promoted by the school administration. We are empowered as parents to really mold them according to the values that we believe God wants us to teach them. 

My kids and I were not able to attend the events during Pope Francis' visit but we were able to watch almost all of them live. Thanks to the internet also, I had access to the full text of the Pope's messages and homilies, enabling me to meditate on his words longer and gain insights.
You can read the full text of Pope Francis' messages in the links below:
Homily During Mass in Luneta

Are you a homeschooling family, too? Are you considering to homeschool your kids also? Do these words of the Pope resonate with you as well? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Baby Jesus In Our Midst

This poem was inspired by some of Pope Francis' messages during his recent visit here in the Philippines. I especially like his message during the Mass in Tacloban (Read the full text here.) and the encounter with the youth wherein he spoke about the girl who cried as she asked a difficult question (Read the full text here.).
Let me quote a few lines before I share my latest poem. It's funny that yesterday afternoon, before reading a poem to my eldest son, I shared with him that I used to write a lot of poems when I was young up until I was still single. I didn't foresee that I will write another one a day after I shared this anecdote about myself with him.
From Pope Francis' homily at the Mass in Tacloban:
"In his Passion he assumed all our pain. Therefore he is capable of understanding us"
"...he never lets us down. Father – you might say to me – I was let down because I have lost so many things... It’s true if you say that and I respect those sentiments. But Jesus is there, nailed to the cross, and from there he does not let us down... That is why we have a Lord who cries with us and walks with us in the most difficult moments of life."
"Many of you have asked the Lord – why lord? And to each of you, to your heart, Christ responds with his heart from the cross... Let us look to Christ. He is the Lord. He understands us because he underwent all the trials that we, that you, have experienced."
"And beside the cross was his Mother. We are like a little child in the moments when we have so much pain and no longer understand anything. All we can do is grab hold of her hand firmly and say “Mommy” – like a child does when it is afraid. It is perhaps the only words we can say in difficult times – 'Mommy'."
"He understands us because he endured everything. Let us look to our Mother and, like a little child, let us hold onto her mantle and with a true heart say – “Mother”. In silence, tell your Mother what you feel in your heart."
"Women have much to tell us in today’s society. Sometimes we are too “machistas” and we don’t allow enough space to women. But women can see things from a different angle to us, with a different eye. Women are able to pose questions we men are unable to understand. Look out for this fact: she is the only one who has put a question for which there is no answer. She couldn’t put it into words but expressed it with tears."
"When the heart is able to ask itself and weep, then we can understand something... those left to one side, are crying. Those who are discarded are crying. But we don’t understand much about these people in need. Certain realities of life we only see through eyes cleansed by our tears."
"If you don’t learn how to cry, you cannot be a good Christian." 

Baby Jesus In Our Midst
I wonder if Mary never felt tiredness or exhaustion from caring for her newborn child.
I wonder if she was always joyful even when she hardly slept at night.
I wonder if she always rushed to his side every time he cried.
I wonder if it was easy for Mary to care for Baby Jesus since she knew that He is the Son of God.
Photo source here.

Or did she also cry silent tears when the answers to her questions she couldn’t find?
Did she patiently bear her pains and troubles when things didn’t seem right?
Did she desperately cling to God’s Words when she was tempted to think that He lied?
Did she fiercely fight her doubts and fears when her heart and mind were wrestling to understand?

Photo source here.

I wonder if we would all rush to hold and cradle a newborn child in our midst
When we remember that the Son of God once came to this world as a child like this.
I wonder if we’ll not think twice of caring and sacrificing for him
When we realize that Jesus was once a helpless child like him.
Photo source here where I learned that Baby Jesus was wrapped
in clothes meant for the dead, specifically Joseph's swaddling clothes.
It made me think: Do we parents die to ourselves
and wrap our babies with our swaddling clothes?
Are we willing to die to ourselves like what Joseph did
throughout his life as the foster father of Jesus?

Do mothers and fathers see the face of Baby Jesus in their own babies?
Do they recognize the opportunity to serve the King of Kings in their midst?
Do they lovingly enjoy His holy presence through a baby that has yet to sleep through the night?
Do they gaze lovingly at Him and bring Him comfort as he cries?

Photo source here.
Or do they look to Mary and ask her how she endured it all?
Do they ask her if she never grew weary or impatient?
Do they ask Joseph if he was always willing to help and serve?
Do they ask for Mary and Joseph’s intercession to do what they feel they can’t?

The truth remains the same whether we see Him or not because of our pains.
His presence remains… trying to penetrate our ignorance, laziness and shame.
Will we joyfully embrace this Holy Child in our midst and all that He brings?
Will our recognition of the Baby Jesus’ presence change the way we see things?
After writing this poem this morning, I thought that maybe one reason Pope Francis loves to "snatch babies" where ever he goes is because he sees the face of Baby Jesus in each one of them. :)

Monday, January 19, 2015

WAHM Lessons From Pope Francis' Visit to the Philippines (#PopeFrancisPH)

I thought that I would be able to accomplish a lot of work-related tasks during Pope Francis' visit to the Philippines because of the long holiday/weekend. I planned to make significant progress in moving forward in reaching my work goals. But my plan did not materialize... at all.
Two days after the Pope arrived in the Philippines, I was tempted to wallow in disappointment. Still, I thought that maybe I could squeeze in some work in between what I had been doing in the past two days. After the Pope's third day in the country, I've decided to abandon all plans of working over the long weekend. Not because I was giving in to frustration or because I'm giving up on my work goals this early in the year, but because I was happy that things did not turn out as I planned.
Let me share three lessons from Pope Francis that I think are applicable to WAHMs (work-at-home moms) like me.
1. TAKE TIME TO REST. - I know many moms who have workaholic tendencies. Ha! I'm one of them! Seriously, work-at-home moms have the tendency to overlook time for rest and recreation because we manage our households and care for our children on top of our work-at-home jobs or home-based businesses. Many WAHMs work after everyone in their household is in bed and is in dreamland. I honestly like working late into the night or early in the morning because that's when the house is quiet and I could think well. Unlike during daytime when I could hardly hear myself above the noise of my active little boys.
So when I heard Pope Francis exhort families to take time to rest in his message during his meeting with families at the MOA Arena, I felt that God was speaking to me through him. I felt that God was giving me permission to rest, especially now that I'm still on maternity leave (technically). I felt God telling me to go slow in going back to work mode and to prioritize my health and recovery.
Aside from reminding families of the importance of rest to our bodies, he also told families that rest is important for our souls. The Pope  said that God can speak to us even while we sleep. He even shared that he sometimes writes his concerns on a piece of paper and puts them under the statue of a sleeping St. Joseph. He said that since God spoke to St. Joseph through St. Joseph's dreams, he was asking for the saint's intercession so that God would speak to him as well  about his concerns while he's sleeping.
Photo source here.
When I heard Pope Francis say these words last Friday, I let go of the guilt I initially felt for sleeping in the afternoons and at night instead of working on items on my to-do list in the past days.
What could take me "40 years" to finish, God could help me finish in a split second if He wills it. So I will take my sweet time during my maternity leave to get as much rest and sleep as I possibly can hoping that like St. Joseph, God would speak to me in my sleep/dreams. And like Mary and Jesus, I hope and pray that I would rise to carry out the mission God has entrusted to me both at home and outside my home.
I will rest in the Lord following God's prompting. This will be my way of expressing my trust in Him that He will take care of all my needs.
2. PROTECT THE FAMILY. - This second lesson was not as  obvious to me as the first. But as I spent more time meditating on the Pope's messages in the past days, I realized that by sticking to my priorities, I am actually protecting my family.
What did I do in the past days? I watched the coverage of the Pope's visit with my family. I shared stories with my husband and kids about my experience during World Youth Day 1995. I meditated on the messages of the Pope. I prepared and did homeschool activities with my kids to teach them more about our Catholic faith, the papacy and Pope Francis. I read inspiring materials and slept in between nursing sessions with my newborn baby, homeschool activities with my two older children and managing our household.
I initially felt disappointed when I found it hard to stay awake and do some work-related tasks. Thankfully, God granted me wisdom through Pope Francis' message that what I was doing in the past days was reason for rejoicing. I was living out my priorities! And by doing this, I am protecting my family!
My family in front of the Nativity scene of our church last Christmas.
One of our recent family pictures.
God, family and self are among my top three priorities in life. I was simply sticking to my priorities by spending my time on the activities I mentioned above.  
I remember one interview with Pope Francis wherein he asked parents: "Do you play with your children? Do you waste time with your children?" He further said, "The free gift of a parent's time is so important."
It is so easy for a work-at-home mom to forget that she works from home because she wants to spend more time with her family. Since we work at home, the boundaries are sometimes blurred and unless we become deliberate in moving forward in WAHMing or doing our home-based businesses, we can make the mistake of letting our work load take over our family activities, which actually defeats the purpose of us working at home.
Nourishing one's self is also important. I cannot give what I do not have. I cannot take care of my family if I am not well. I need time for solitude so that I can commune with my God and be filled with the necessary graces that only He can give. If I do not make time for my relationship with God, I would be tempted to demand from my family members what only God can give me. Expecting from my family what can only come from God would put unnecessary strain on my relationships with them.
Read the full text of Pope Francis' message to families here.
3. LET GOD SURPRISE YOU. - God reminded me through Pope Francis yesterday through his encounter with the youth at UST that He is a God of surprises and that He surprises us because He loves us.
I was reminded of the many times God surprised me in my WAHM adventure. It was a delight to receive and enjoy God's unexpected favors!
I admit that I like to make sure that I have all things covered, including in my projects as a work-at-home mom, consultant and business-mom. My natural tendency is to be uneasy (to say the least) when faced with uncertainties. I like to be in control. I like making plans and making sure I execute my plans as perfectly as I can. But God likes to surprise me. Pope Francis said, "They shake the ground beneath our feet and make us insecure, but they move us forward in the right direction." It's true! Not knowing exactly what would happen next makes us insecure and afraid. But a lot of times, based on my personal experiences, those times when God surprised me are also times of great favors and miracles. It was during those times when I felt most loved by Him.

Who would have imagined a Pope celebrating Mass in a yellow raincoat?
Who would expect this kind of smile from a Pope
who has just celebrated Mass in the rain?
But God is a God of surprises indeed as shown by this photo of our #DearPopeFrancis. Photo source here.
I believe that this is a very timely reminder at the start of the year when I (many of us) usually make plans for our personal lives and our careers/businesses. It's good to make plans but we should also make space for God's surprises and miracles in our lives. In truth, I do hope that God would surprise me again big time this year! I hope and pray that He would surprise me by blessing me beyond what I deserve and beyond what I expect my efforts and hard work would yield.
Read the full text of Pope Francis' message to the youth in UST here.
These are just some of the lessons I learned/relearned while watching Pope Francis' activities during his papal visit here in the Philippines and meditating on his message to us Filipinos.
Did you also follow the Pope either physically or through the tv, internet and other forms of media? What lessons did you learn from his visit? Feel free to share in the comments.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

ABUNDANCE: One Word for the Year 2015 (#OneWord)

It was the first day of the New Year. I was checking my Facebook Account when a post from a friend (actually my husband's cousin) caught my eye. He shared a photo with the Bible verse Jeremiah 29:11. I felt at that moment that God has given me confirmation for my One Word for the Year.
I have thought of my One Word for the year days before 2014 ended but I was waiting for God to confirm with me that this was indeed the WORD  that He wanted me to embrace and live out more fully this new year. I was waiting for God to lead me to a Bible verse that would resonate within my soul and affirm me that I have chosen the right word for me this 2015.
I knew that I could just Google the word abundance and search for Bible verses related to it and that would easily give me a Bible verse that would support my choice for my One Word this year. But that's not how I want to do it. I wanted God to give me the confirmation that I wanted. That way, I know that it wasn't just me who chose that WORD, but that God wanted me to choose it as well.
That's why on January 1, I felt my heart leap for joy when I read these words from my friend's Facebook status.
"For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future," declares the Lord.
That very moment I knew that I already have my One Word for the Year 2015. And not only that. With the confirmation I was waiting and asking for, I got my Bible verse for the year as well! What a wonderful gift from God on the first day of the New Year! I am one blessed child of God!
Jeremiah 29:11 is a familiar verse for me. It has been one of my favorite Bible verses since I was in college. It thrilled me that God has given me this verse as my Bible Verse for the Year.

Days after this happened, I saw another post in my Facebook feed that confirmed again my choice for my One Word. This time it was a photo shared by Joel Osteen.

I couldn't help but smile. I knew that it was God again speaking to me through that photo.

So, the other day, I made a new cover photo for my Facebook account. It's my way of reminding myself of my One Word and my Bible verse for the year every time I check my Facebook account .

I also felt that God has given me my song for the year through this song. I've decided that I will sing this song at least once a day to claim in faith the ABUNDANCE that God will rain down on me this year.

Yesterday, I bought a copy of one of the devotionals based on Joel Osteen's books. The title of this devotional is Daily Readings from Break Out! I started reading it as soon as I laid hands on it in the bookstore. I read the reading for yesterday and I felt that I found a devotional that God would use to remind and enable me to live out my One Word for the Year.

Last year, my One Word was SHINE. True enough, God enabled me live out my One Word in many ways, but most especially through the fulfillment of my God-sized dreams. Thus, I am all the more excited for 2015. I claim as early as now that this will be a year of ABUNDANCE for me! This will be another breakthrough year because this is God's Will for me.

The reading today in my new devotional affirmed this through another Bible verse:

The Lord answered, "I will be with you." Judges 6:16

My current circumstances do not perfectly manifest my One Word yet. But I believe that it will happen this year as I have envisioned it because God is with me. I know in my heart that God was the One who gave me that vision and who led me to this Word and this verse. One of the verses from the First Reading today supports my belief. It says, "so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; my word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it."

What's your One Word and Verse for the Year? I would love to know also.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Blog in a Blink: Best 14 of 2014

I started this exercise last year when I read about it from the blog Equipping Catholic Families. I wanted to write this post and publish it last January 1. But I was still not finished with my yearend review, strategic planning and goal-setting activities so I postponed writing it. Actually, I'm not yet finished doing all these activities but I'm happy that I have already accomplished much. Thus, I've decided to squeeze in some time to write this post before I sleep tonight.
Here are the most viewed blog posts of last year:

Monday, January 5, 2015

How Our Family Followed the Example of the Magi

Our family had another meaningful and fun celebration of the Feast of the Epiphany of our Lord yesterday. It's our second time to celebrate it in our new home but it's our first time to celebrate it with our new baby, our third son. This made it more fun because we now have three boys who remind us of the three kings or three wise men from the East.

We had similar activities as in the previous years but with a couple of modifications. You may read about our previous celebrations here. This was our way of continuing our family tradition every year on the Feast of the Epiphany of Our Lord and at the same time engage the kids to be involved and to learn about our faith in a fun and memorable way.
Our first activity was reading a book about the shepherds and kings who followed the Star of Bethlehem to see the Newborn King.
I made crowns for our three boys while my husband read them the story. I cut out the colored papers for their crowns then I asked our two older boys to decorate their crowns by tracing circles using a coin and coloring these with crayons. These colored circles will be the precious stones on their crowns.
Our next activity was the making of the Star of Bethlehem. I cut out a bond paper in the shape of a four-point star then I asked my second child to color it with a yellow crayon. At first he was eager to color the cut out but he got tired eventually so I had to help him finishing coloring our star by holding his hand.

This activity was followed by a song teaching activity wherein the boys learned a song about the three kings. I asked my husband to show the boys some videos in You Tube of this song.

While the boys were learning the song and practicing it, I wrapped the gifts that they will give to our new neighbor who became their playmates. 
After lunch and after their bath, I dressed them up and helped them wear their crowns so they can go to our neighbor's house and bring their gift. My husband carried our baby who also wore a crown while the two boys walked carrying their gifts. Once in our neighbor's garage, our eldest sang the song We Three Kings. Then, they gave their gifts to their playmates who are also two brothers. Incidentally, the younger brother was celebrating his 4th birthday also yesterday. We were all very happy to find that out. I felt that we were truly led to bring gifts to them yesterday.

When our eldest son woke up from his nap, I asked him to answer some worksheets about the Feast of the Epiphany which I found in the internet.

On our way to the church to hear Mass, my eldest son also had an interesting observation that he shared with all of us last night. He said that we went to our next door neighbor's house to deliver gifts to them because there's a star hanging on their balcony just like the star on top of the stable in Bethlehem.
I enjoyed listening to the priest's homily last night. It was informative and insightful at the same time. First, he discussed the meaning of the gifts. Then, he encouraged us to follow the example of the Magi who sought the Lord (by following the Star of Bethlehem), brought him gifts (which according to him were actually declarations of faith), adored him and who allowed God to change the course of their lives (symbolized by their decision to take a new way/route going home). He said that like the Magi, we should also seek the Lord. God may use many instruments in leading us to an encounter with Him. These could be people, events or things. He encouraged us to bring gifts to Jesus on Christmas and not just pray that we receive gifts. Of course, our best gift to Jesus is our faith in Him and our lives. Like the Magi who chose to have faith in Jesus as symbolized by the gifts they brought Him, we were exhorted by the priest to look beyond the physical and see God's presence even in the sadness, gloom, lack or pain just like the Magi who saw beyond the darkness, filth and lack of class of the stable. The stable was not even fit for humans, how much more for a king and the King of Kings but the Magi saw beyond all these. And they bowed in adoration before Him who is in the form of a newborn baby. The priest also said that we are called to shine our lights so that after our encounter with Jesus, we'd be able to lead others to Him as well like the Start of Bethlehem. He ended his homily by reminding us that if we have truly encountered God, our lives would be changed and we would walk in a new path, the path of righteousness.

After Mass, we had our photos taken at the church's Nativity Scene, ate dinner and did our annual Epiphany blessing of our house.

My husband blessed our chalk, our house and used the chalk to write on the doors of our house. We also gave our eldest son a chance to help in this activity by writing the blessing on top of two of the doors in our new home. My husband carried him so he can reach the top of the doors. Our second child helped by holding the bottle of Holy Water. We told our younger son that next year when he already knows how to write all the letters of the alphabet and the numbers, he will have a chance to write on top of our doors as well. He wanted to write also. He kept saying that he already knows how to write his name. Cute! We told him that he will not write his name on top of the doors but the blessing. My husband led the prayer and blessing while I prayed aloud the responses to the prayers.

The prayers we recited were from this website.
It was another simple celebration but definitely meaningful because I believe that we did not only encounter Jesus in our celebration but we also brought Jesus to our neighbors.