Below are Christmas-themed posts from my old blog site:
On this post, I am putting the links to old entries instead of putting the entire posts here. Just click on the title to read the post and see the photos, too. 🙂
[This post was originally published on November 9, 2012 right here…<– that’s where you can see the photos, too. :)]
Oh, blessed vacation!
Compared to previous years, my stay in the city at this time has been prolonged due to a recent trip to another city abroad — the Lion City, Singapore.
I prayed for a fun and Spirit-filled vacation. And God totally floored me. I was excited for the trip, yes. But my excitement proved no match to how He exceeded my expectations by leaps and bounds!
So how did God surprise me? Here are seven ways:
- By allowing me to enjoy everything FOR FREE. That’s right — everything was free for me. I didn’t have to pay a single cent. Not for the airfare, not for the board and lodging, not for the pocket money. God provided generously through various sources that I didn’t even have to ask for anything. All I had to do was pack and show up. And voila! — blessing upon blessing!
You know what? God gave me a message for this trip: Isaiah 55, the whole chapter. The title in my Bible reads, “An Invitation to Grace.” Grace is a gift; all I needed to do was receive. What particularly struck me was verse 1b which says, “You who have no money, come receive grain and eat; Come, without paying and without cost, drink wine and milk!” Then verse 2b says, “Heed me, and you shall eat well, you shall delight in rich fare.” And boy, did I!
- By giving me the gift of childlikeness in Universal Studios. Kung Fu Panda was the first character we met upon entrance, and I was thrilled! (Perhaps even more thrilled than my five-year-old.) I was wide-eyed at the Madagascar Crate Ride. I greatly enjoyed the Jurassic Rapids Adventure where all eight of us got wet. (Eight of us being my husband, son and me, parents-in-law, two sisters-in-law and niece.) And my favorite ride — the Transformers Ride! So cool! A Sesame Street fan, I might have gotten a little giddy over the Sesame Street structures (only Sesame Street fans will understand…).
3. By letting me see things I’ve never seen before at Gardens by the Bay.“Beautiful!” I kept on saying. The moment we entered the Flower Dome, we were greeted with all kinds of trees, plants and flowers. BEAUTIFUL! Flowers I had never seen in my life lined the walkway. Red and pink roses among the other flowers were as big or even bigger than my fist! Massive trees stood like dignified soldiers.
Then we went to the other dome, the Cloud Forest. As the door opened, I felt a mist. Upon entering…WOW! Magnificent waterfalls gushing down from the circular building. While walking along, I started to worship God for such a wonderful sight!
- By granting me awesome views of the city and the sky. These, via our room on the 25th floor of Somerset Liang Court in the vicinity of Clarke Quay, and via the Singapore Flyer — a huge ferris wheel where you ride inside this big glass capsule that slowly goes up and down, giving you a fantastic aerial view.
5. By fixing our schedules so that everyone ended up happy. We only had one day — make that, some hours — to do our shopping. I deemed this day as a “day for our passions” — my husband wanted to visit some golf stores, my son wanted to go to a toy store and I wanted to go to Ikea. (I just had to go to Ikea. This was my plan even prior to the trip.) That morning, I prayed that the Lord would fix our schedules so we could go to the places we wanted to go to, and still arrive at the hotel in time to be picked up at 5:30 pm (we were to serve in a prayer meeting of our Catholic community’s branch there).
So off we went to Far East Shopping Centre, one of the floors being a golfer’s haven! Then off we went to Takashimaya in Ngee Ann City at Orchard Road for the toy store — happiness for my son! Lunch…then off to Ikea! (I only had about an hour to breeze through it.) The moment I saw the blue and yellow building, I got so excited — “There it is!” God answered my prayer, in the midst of traffic and a long taxi queue. At the queue, I surrendered to the Lord, saying, “Lord, bahala Ka na if we get to go to Ikea.” But we were able to, Hallelujah! God really wants to make His children happy. “Take delight in the Lord, and he will grant you your heart’s requests” (Psalm 37:4).
- By meeting me in the company of community. Two members from Elim Singapore met us at the hotel and brought us to the venue of the prayer meeting. Us meant my husband, son and me, my two sisters-in-law and niece. My sister-in-law led in worship, my husband taught about “The Fear of the Lord,” I shared a few insights and sang, my other sister-in-law led in a prayer. Then the community treated us to dinner at the Singapore Flyer area, where there was a lot of food and fellowship. God was indeed among us that evening.
- By speaking to me through the priest’s homily. We attended Sunday Mass at Sacred Heart Church. The priest and his homily were truly anointed. I could sense the fire of the Spirit in the priest. (I don’t even know his name.) Some of the things that he said that struck me:
- We have to change our mindset. We usually say that man has original sin. But since God breathed life into man out of love, there is also original grace.
- Therefore, to be human is to be divine. Because to be truly human is to love.
- I am excited for this year, the year of faith.
My vacation was so packed! Indeed, God is a God of surprises!
Have you noticed His surprises? How has He surprised you lately? 🙂
(This post was originally published on November 2, 2012 right here.)
Have you ever prayed to God for something really specific, and it actually got answered?
With regard to housing post-wedding, here’s what I was praying for:
An apartment –
1. With reasonable rent
2. That was near my husband-to-be’s workplace
3. That had two bathrooms
I think numbers 1 and 2 were more part of my hubby-to-be’s prayers, whereas number 3 was what I emphasized to the Lord. For the record, this asking was not done haphazardly. I had learned through the years that as a child and servant of God, I could ask, and I would receive (Matthew 7:7). I also learned that as a regular tither (one who gives back to God 10% of blessings received, such as income), I would be on the receiving end of “blessings without measure,” as God promises in Malachi 3:10.
Since my fiance was already working in the countryside, it was his job to go apartment-hunting. And every time he would come upon an apartment with check marks for numbers 1 and 2, but not number 3, I knew that wasn’t the one. Turned out that most apartments in that place had only one bathroom. Nevertheless, I insisted on having two. I had several reasons, one of which was just in case anything happened to one (say, some toilet trouble), then we had another for contingency.
Long story short – God answered our prayers. After some more exploring, my fiance found the apartment that was suitable for us. Yes, the rent was within our league (and much lower than city rates); it was about two minutes away by car to his office; and yes, it had two bathrooms, to my joy!
Take note, I had only seen the apartment in pictures, as I had never left the city to see it for myself. When I finally got to see it with my own eyes…well…thank You, Lord, we have a place to stay…but honestly, the drab shades of green on the doors, the walls and the floors were…not to my liking. A paint job was not on our priority list of expenses, and I don’t think Mrs Landlady – who lived five houses away – would allow us to simply change the look of this dwelling anyway, being the fourth in a row of same-looking apartments.
I had to remind myself that this, indeed, was a blessing, as God did answer all my prayers regarding the apartment. He didn’t miss a thing. But maybe I should’ve added a number 4: that the apartment wouldn’t have them drab shades of green to begin with…nah, I learned to live with it. And be thankful, too.
(This post was originally published on October 27, 2012 right here.)
Have you ever found yourself out of your comfort zone? Or perhaps you were in that zone, but just the thought of an inch outside of it made you cringe, get all clammy and migraine-prone?
I get you.
So here were the initial and major changes I had to contend with:
- From single life to married life
- From city life to provincial life
- From working in an office to working at home
- From being with family and friends all throughout the week to having no family and friends (except my loving and patient husband, of course)
I had two choices:
- Resist the changes, remain in rigidity…and be miserable; in one word, MISERY; or
- Accept the changes, adjust accordingly…and be happy; in one word, HAPPINESS
Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Anyone in her right mind would choose happiness. Guess what? I found misery quite quickly. OK, so I wasn’t in my right mind then. I was in my left (sorry, couldn’t resist!).
This reminds me of a Bible passage in Deuteronomy 30:19 (NRSV) that says, “I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live.” No-brainer. But for some weird reason, we humans tend to choose the harder route…learning the hard way in the process. At least we learn.
For the record, I was glad to be married. That was a change I readily welcomed. For the rest, I struggled.
I resisted, I accepted, I resisted, I accepted, I resisted, I accepted, I resisted…I.GOT.TIRED. I learned. I accepted, I adjusted, I became happy. Whew!
A guy named Jimmy Dean said, “I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” But Jesus, my Savior, said it best: “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8, NRSV).
I wanted to follow the wind of the Spirit. So I had to make choices deliberately. It took time. I had to learn to adjust every day. Every moment even. And each step of acceptance and adjustment brought me deeper into a place called peace.
(This post was originally published on October 24, 2012 right here.)
Is this really happening? I asked myself as I woke up to a new day, looking out from the bus window, arriving at a place that, years later, I would also call home. But not just yet. Not now. I felt like a stranger. On hindsight, it was not so much the place or the people that were unwelcoming; it was me, unwelcoming of the changes. OK, so I probably was remiss on some research regarding the place, so I was caught off guard. Culture shock.
In the city I was used to tall buildings everywhere, malls on every other block (OK, I’m exaggerating…), restaurant choices from A to Z. Now here I was, hundreds of kilometers away from what I used to know…and there was no mall. Nada. No mall?! Where in the world am I going to spend my weekends? Restaurant choices were limited. And Starbucks? What Starbucks? NO Starbucks. NO STARBUCKS?! (There wasn’t even a coffee place to speak of.) The city withdrawal symptoms were creeping in.
Poor City Girl — how foolish of her to expect the same things from the countryside that she expected from the city. Didn’t she realize that, apart from their spelling, the two words of “city” and “country” had other differences? (Oh, really? Duh.) And didn’t she realize that God ordained that there would be beauty in both? (Um, no. Not yet, at least.)
My eyes were veiled then. I only “saw” what was unseen, what was not there. I failed to appreciate that the absence of a concrete jungle meant I had the vast canvas of God’s sky to look at. That the absence of a mall meant I could just chill outdoors (and save money). That the limited restaurant choices meant I could enjoy my husband’s exquisite cooking (and save money). And that no Starbucks meant…well, no Starbucks (but yes, saving money).
So City Girl meets provincial life for real. But she’d have to decide for herself how to cooperate with it to make it work. Thankfully, God’s patience and mercy were in generous store.
Questions: Did you ever have to deal with a sudden change in your life? How’d that turn out? Feel free to post your experience. 🙂