JOY in finding one’s Prince

 
For my 40th birthday, I wanted a view of still waters and a beautiful mountain. And so when a friend mentioned about her beautiful stay at Ashinoko Prince Hotel in Hakone, that is famous for its view of Mt. Fuji against the peaceful 3000 year old Ashinoko crater-lake, I immediately booked one night at one of its premium rooms. So we planned on having tea at the balcony, a picnic near the lake and a run around this circular hotel. 

But it rained so hard we did not see Mt. Fuji at all. And worse, Adana had moderate to high fever all day, all night that I ended up staying in the room without a view, hearing only the rush of wind and smashing rain disguised by a massive cloud of fog. 


Pido gently reminded me that while things did not turn out as planned, my heart should be in a position of gratitude. After all, there could be beautiful surprises in the rain.


And so I spent time reading, praying and reflecting. Everything around me reminded me of how my life has been and should be. 


The beautiful hotel, reminded me that one can age gracefully. It felt like entering a facility that was once grand years ago but has chosen to embrace its oldness. I loved the hall with a red carpet and golden ceiling that led to the rooms. I loved the winding stairs that were understated elegance; the walls of various materials ; the wooden furniture that added so much character to the place. I loved the French restaurant with high ceiling and a 180-view of the lake. The walkway towards the lake with towering trees stood tall and charming despite the intermittent fog that fell like a soft blanket. The onsen that was almost empty when I had the chance to take a dip was exactly what I needed. The view of boats and the sound of birds and splash of water all made me feel really grateful for all the 40 years.


That while so many things did not turn out as planned in my life, specially the past decade, I was reminded that there was so much to be thankful for. My past decade has been filled with heartbreak, all cannot be seen in my Instagram and FB posts. I felt the most rejected and deeply hurt for things that only God and closest friends will ever know. I felt the most afraid for my life during the big earthquake that hit Japan while on my 9th month carrying Adana; the most helpless when my mom had a heart attack on the eve of Adana’s birthday. I cried so much more this past decade than I have in my life the rest of the years. 


Yet, my heart remains grateful. I have experienced the comforting, fatherly and unconditional, faithful love of God in all those times. That while the past decade has not been the best, I also experienced the best of God’s surprises and provision, all of which I did not feel I deserved.


So on my birthday morning, although sleepless, I dressed up and spent so much time in worship. Whether things turn out well or not in my life, my God remains good. That is my place. Right at the feet of my Lord; in the loving arms of my Father; in the sweetest embrace of my Prince. 


This love changes me like no other.


Thank you my Prince for September 29th, 2:45 pm and for my Mama who fought hard to give birth to this now 40 year old. These and the blessings thereafter. 


Birthdays are God’s miracles. 

JOY in being accidental staycationers 

People close to me know how much I love staycations. A staycation which simply means “to stay and enjoy a vacation in one’s home country or at home to enjoy day trips to local attractions,” is cheaper, stress-free, and can be done for just a couple of days. I find it truly refreshing. 

We have gone to a few staycations in Japan. We usually do so on special occasions. The special occasions give us a reason to splurge a little bit (and not feel too guilty about it.) And since I am bad at organizing big parties, I always look forward to every birthday, anniversary, Christmas, spent in town. 

That’s me and the little girl enjoying Odaiba at night from the outdoor jacuzzi at Hotel Nikko in Odaiba (a surprise and generous upgrade on our wedding anniversary).



One of our favorite places to do staycation is Odaiba. Aside from all the beautiful memories of living there for 2 years when I was a student (and memories of Pido, commuting all the way, just to see me for a while), and of being married there, there are so many things for families to do in Odaiba. There are also many hotels to choose from. And you would love the view of Tokyo Bay, Tokyo Tower and the Rainbow Bridge anytime of the day. 

On Adana’s 5th birthday though, we became accidental staycationers in Chiba. After a few dinner and lunch celebrations with some of our family friends, we wanted her to enjoy her fifth at her happy place. We intended to take her to Disneyland and just stay overnight at Sheraton Hotel, a stone’s throw away from the Disney Resorts. 

But because of bad weather, our one night turned into two nights and three whole days of staycation. It was an unexpected, much needed fun, rest and family bonding for all of us. It was great to see Adana graciously accepting the bad news of not enjoying Disney as planned. As parents, we were delighted to being sitting on the floor explaining the change of plans and seeing the sadness that quickly turned into a jolly response,”that’s ok, Nanay and Tatay.” 

I highly recommend the Tokyo Bay Sheraton Grande Hotel for a few good reasons. Aside from its good location, it is cheaper than the more popular Disney Hotels; it is family-friendly. The breakfast on the 12th floor offered a great view of Tokyo Bay on one side and Disney Resort on the other. It has a club lounge that we thoroughly enjoyed from breakfast to late night drinks. It has ample facilities for young children and the rooms are cozy and big enough. The staff are all friendly and customer-service is superb. It has a swimming pool that allows young children (many big hotels in Tokyo don’t allow small children). It has a spa, gym, outdoor pool (in summer), putter golf area, a big garden, table tennis area, photo studio, an arcade, many restaurants that offer late night buffet. And the hotel has a shuttle to Disney and Maihama JR station. Our room on the 11th floor had 2 queen size beds, a lot of extra pillows, a big bathroom and a good supply of coffee and many kinds of tea. Wifi is freely available too. 

I told Pido that it was one of the best staycations we had recently. It is not really much about the place, but the amount of quality time we spent over breakfast, while just sitting on a rocking chair, while swimming, while holding each other’s hand watching our little girl enjoying a big garden. 

I love staycations because we get to slow down and not really make the trip weigh more than being around each other. We don’t need to rush to take a train or catch a flight. We don’t need to spend a lot of time analyzing a map or checking the Internet for the best ways to go around. And while I still dream of traveling overseas with Pido and the little girl, I am always thankful to God for moments like these. We stay and take things slowly. And we get to spend time thanking God for the 5 precious years of entrusting us with the joy of having, raising and discipling Miki Daniela. My heart is full and swelling with grateful memories of God’s sweet goodness in our lives. And I will forever be grateful for the precious chance to do all these with Pido.









JOY in crying new tears 

Yesterday was a very special day. 

In an evangelism workshop, we were asked about how we experience God. Because an answer to that question would lead us to clues to our tendencies on how we reach out and evangelize. 

The workshop was short, well thought of, very informative. It facilitated an intelligent exchange of experiences, concerns, prayers and vision. 

It was also a very inspiring challenge to keep breaking the code – how to evangelize effectively in Japan. A question that is so big and difficult to completely answer. But an important question nonetheless. 

Pido and I sat in one corner of the room (with our little girl allowed to play as she waited) drinking in all the scriptural basis of why we need to do this for the sake of the Gospel and our love for Christ. We sat, knowing we did not have a clue or even a good answer even after living in Japan for many years. We sat there willing to learn and be challenged to be out of our comfort zone, once again. 

And so when Pastor John asked us about how we experience God, images of how I got to understand the Father Heart of God reminded me of my personal spiritual journey from the university I got to really experience God as well as my baby steps in leading others to Christ in this country. 

There is so much fatherlessness wherever we go. There are some who, like me, lost their fathers at an early age and spent the rest of their lives coping without a fatherly love and presence amidst a secret cry to be fathered in many seasons of woman’s (or man’s) life. 

There are those who have fathers but still longing for the kind of father who stays when others walk away, who always chooses to love, who prefers to be present, who prays and leads in a godly way, who chooses family above all. 

And so when I quietly reflected about how I could evangelize and tell others about the Christ and His truth in this nation, images of people who fathered me in big and small ways, danced like a short video clip in my head. 

That while I grew up envying others who had someone to call their Papa, I have not been forgotten. 

I have been sent to school, have been provided for, been comforted and have been led graciously to the Lord. But most of all, I have been discipled, patiently and oh so lovingly, just like the father heart of God.

And so last night I prayed as if I was holding a physical box of all the things that weighed me down. I ran to God and fell at His feet, throwing my character flaws, mistakes, sins, fears, questions and past at the foot of the cross. 

I was just like the younger version of myself more than 10 years ago when I first came to Japan, my heart full of passion to do something for Christ. I was nothing. I was a nobody. I am still a nobody today. But yesterday, my love for this country and its people, has been rekindled a thousand times over. 

It all started because I started remembering that the God who fathered me, is still fathering me right now. That despite everything that did not turn out right in my life, I have not been forgotten.

And my hope, my future, my joy, is Him. 

I cried new tears because my heart became full of new prayers for this nation and its beautiful people. 

Please use this nobody, Lord. 

In whatever way.

Because I live to give you praise. 

JOY in finding Sakura in the suburbs 

To experience Sakura in the city is great. Vast land filled with Sakura trees, crowds and festivities. There are unique food stalls in places like Ueno park and there are interesting activities if you go on a weekend. I always look forward to seeing Sakura in Shinjuku park, Ueno park, Kichijoji and Yoyogi park and along many streets downtown. The streets around the Imperial palace and Tokyo Midtown are beautifully adorned in pink. 

But to experience Sakura in the suburbs is a unique experience too. When one rides a train away from downtown Tokyo, one can feast on a pocket of Sakura trees in a children’s playground. A Sakura tree also makes an ordinary backyard or creek, a little bit more special. The Sakura trees that stand charmingly next to a shrine or temple or an old house for example, exude a different character. 

I am sharing some of the Sakura moments I had while walking around the suburbs in my neighborhood, at a children’s zoo and in the very historical Kawagoe. To walk under Sakura trees along a seemingly endless street by the river on a quiet afternoon, away from the crowds, with my loved ones peacefully enjoying the view, is nothing but precious. While I love many things about the city, I thank God for this gift to be able to spot treasures in the suburbs. 

Walk along with me through some of my random photos. 

And find your little great joys this Spring. 
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  

JOY in sharing their secrets

A lot of friends think that because I live in Japan, I am privy to all the best Japanese beauty products. Many Japanese women have nice skin and spend a lot on the best skin care and cosmetics. I have some skin issues and I do not spend so much on skin care. My only secret (hardly calling it beauty secret) is my daily use of sunblock regardless of the weather and season indoors and outdoors, extensive use of Oil of Olay as my moisturizer, and refusing to wear make-up everyday. While I own a few pieces and once in a while dab my favorite RMK lip gloss and a shimmer of green eye shadow, my friends and colleagues are so amazed that I seldom use a concealer, foundation, cheek tint, mascara, eye liner, etc. Because I am so lazy to remove make-up, I have decided that an everyday no make-up look is the best for me. 

So I am sharing their beauty secrets, not exactly mine. I have Japanese girlfriends who have beautiful skin and friends who are in their 60s with very young looking skin. I have asked them a few times what they do to have such glowing skin. The list may not be comprehensive and because I am not an expert but just a keen observer, the following secrets may contradict opinion of others who know the Japanese beauty secret better. Nonetheless, let me share my observations. 

1. They avoid the sun. 

Women here love sunblock. In summer, there are a lot of different brands and it is quite overwhelming. A very good friend whose skin is so beautiful even in her thirties told me about the Nivea sunblock that is made in Japan as one of the best. It is reasonably priced, light on the skin and provides very good protection. I also love the Shiseido with Q10 which is a lot cheaper than Anessa, another good Shiseido sunblock. So they use sunblock, on top of carefully wearing hats and those items specially made to cover one’s arms when they walk, or ride their bicycles. Sun causes damage to one’s skin. Avoid it and cover yourself up. 

2. They exfoliate. 

The number one brand is called CURE. I think it is made of mostly water with some natural ingredients to help remove dry skin cells. It is very gentle on the skin and for about ¥2,600 a bottle, you can use it for many months as you do not need to use more than twice a week. I love this product and I often wish I had discovered it many years ago. Use it once and you will immediately see the difference. 

3. They use make up remover, serum, moisturizer, facial masks etc.

I am not an expert so I cannot really give details here. I just know that they use a lot of make up so they need to clean their faces carefully too. Many people love the Shu Uemura cleansing oil. I have used it once and I loved the fragrance. Another cheaper alternative is DHC cleansing oil which you can find in any drugstore. After removing their make up, they wash their faces with “soft products.” They use facial foam or wash that cleanses but does not make your skin dry. There are so many to choose from. One of the most popular is the Shiseido Perfect Whip, a reasonably priced one that creates a soft and rich foam, penetrating the pores while leaving the skin clean and hyrdated. The list for the moisturizer and serum is so long. But my friends who are in their sixties but have glowing nice skin mention the Arouge products to be their favorite. They are not as expensive as anti-ageing line of Shiseido or SK II, but are believed to deliver results. Facial masks are everywhere too. I use one, once in a while. But Adana gets scared so I use it whenever Pido agrees to look after the little girl so I could hide and enjoy a longer bath time with a mask soaked in mild serum for about 15 minutes. 

4. They get facial and other beauty treatments in esthe or special salons. 

The only time I visited one of their “esthe” was the night before my wedding. I even got a promo so I paid about 20% only of the total price. I had facial treatment, body scrub, body massage and enjoyed their beautiful sauna. A few of my Japanese girlfriends confessed paying so much for things like these. They would normally buy a package which is equivalent to a few visits, specific treatments and a lot of pampering. I think they do not have a habit of telling people about it. It is something they think ladies, specially the single and young professionals simply have to do to look best. The price is really hefty and I do not think I could ever spend so much on such things. 

5. They do so many other things. 

They drink a lot of green tea. They eat seaweed. They eat the very exotic “natto.” They eat “wakame.” They take multi vitamins. They depend on collagen drink and collagen products. They regularly go to an “onsen” or hot spring. They massage their faces in a very special way. They spend a lot on skin care. 

I am not the best source but I hope I was able to share a few useful information on why their skin is just the envy of many Asians and Westerners. It gives me joy to share even simple things like these. A great skin, after all can fill our hearts with littlegreatjoys.

  
So what’s inside my skin care pouch? I have facial masks and smaller bottles (freebies or those you can get from trial kits). I have tried a few facial masks. My favorite so far is the SK-II (not in photo) that gives instant glow to very tired skin, and Lululun facial sheet masks (not in photo) that are reasonably priced and available in drugstores. 

  
These are my top picks for the sunscreen. I use the Curel brand for our little girl too. Avoid sunscreen that comes with SPF over than 50. 

  Moisturizers need not be expensive. These favorite items are about ¥1,000 yen or less. 

  

My favorite cleansing routine includes a mild facial scrub (use once a week) and a scent-free facial foam or cream. This Shiseido item is very affordable. 

  
Bath salts turn one’s bath time into a very relaxing experience. It is a great way to end a busy day. Since the Japanese love their bath time, one can find a wide array of this kind to choose from even in drugstores. 


JOY in starting something together

 This year Pido and I decided to start a new activity that we can enjoy as a family. We wanted something doable, within our budget and enjoyable for all of us even for the little girl. We also thought about something that we can do all seasons and great for health. We don’t run marathons. We don’t often climb mountains (except for Mt. Takao and Mt. Tanigawa). We don’t fly a lot to travel. 

But we all love to walk and explore new places. We like taking it easy and discovering quaint shops, family owned coffee shops, unique parks, and interesting back streets. 

So during the weekend of Hearts Day, our small family started our first of many treks – urban hiking. 
Urban hiking is an alternative to a more traditional hike. Most people in Japan love to go hiking. Autumn is the best season as one can also enjoy the changing of the tree colors. Spring is great too as long as one is not suffering from a really nasty pollen allergy. We are planning to go on easy hikes right after spring. It will be Adana’s first. But we want to do something more often. Maybe on week nights for an hour or two, or whole day on holidays. We plan to ride a local train and explore metropolitan skylines, intimate neighborhoods, old towns and find onsens. Hence our family project to go urban hiking. 

We really don’t know how to do this right. But we are excited. It will be filled with conversations and a lot of quiet moments too. Hopefully, it will make Adana love the outdoors and nature; the city and its sights. And hopefully make our love for all things meaningful increase. 

Last weekend, because we felt that Adana was sneezing a lot and perhaps coming down with something, we started our trek down a small town near where we live. We decided to avoid the crowded cities and stayed close by just in case Pido’s allergy gets worse and the little girl starts feeling sick. 

We went to Ogawamachi, Yorii and Ogose. We spent just a few hours. 
We will keep walking in the coming days and will document our small adventures here. Hopefully we lose some weight, see new things and find better perspectives. 

Happy Hearts Day! Because in Japan, the celebration of love runs from February 14th (where the women give their men some special chocolates) to March 14th (where the men return the favor). 

May we all find something and someone worth falling in love with! 
  
Had these for breakfast (with yogurt and coffee). Thank you Herlyn. 

  
Had vegetable curry (the Japanese curry that I have learned to like) for lunch. 

  
One of the beautiful things we found that day

  
 The view from a local train station. 

  

I love waiting areas like this one. 

  

Our medicines to fight the nasty pollen allergy in the spring.

  

Our attempt to have a couple shot. 

  

  
And I cooked a plant strong pasta dish for dinner.

  

My man got a box of small treats. 

  

And I had to fall in line like everybody else. 

  

 Because we also needed to do it the Filipino way, I got my kind of pink and sweet. 

  

I want to love you more and more everyday. Because some kinds of love are meant to last. 

 

JOY in falling for Sakura 

What a strange thing to be alive beneath cherry blossoms.”
― Kobayashi Issa, Poems

Everybody looks forward to spring in Japan. It is even an exciting thing for allergy sufferers like me because it means that pollens are beginning to wane in quantity. And most specially because of the magical weeklong blooming of cherry blossoms. The “Sakura” season stands out as one of the best times to be in Japan. 

I never really understood the magic of sakura. Sure the flowers are nice and the picnics fun. But it took me a while to understand its impact on the lives of people living here. A few years later, as I walked in an unbelievably huge park filled with cherry blossom trees, I was blown away by its beauty. It is like seeing a dramatic sunset in Boracay but exquisitely different; like experiencing the piercing charm of standing infront of a full view of a snow capped mountain surrounded by a quiet lake. Sakura season presents Japan in its finest, so fresh and hopeful and truly promising. It is a must-see.

 
But to truly enjoy Sakura, one must not hurry like most tourists do. They snap pictures, spend more time on their phones, taking a video or sharing the photos online. Then they run to the next park and do the same. They grab a Sakura flavored ice cream and marvel at the Sakura themed bento (lunch) boxes. They spring from one spot to the next. And then they walk away. 

The anticipation of the cherry blossom adds to the excitement. People are very careful in following the forecast, plan their week around it and make it a point to spend time with colleagues, family and friends. My most memorable hanami or picnics during the cherry blossom season are those spent with people I care about. I had gone out with colleagues in Showa Kin-en park, with church friends in Yoyogi and Shinjuku gyoen, enjoyed “yozakura” or hanami (picnic) at night near the Tokyo Tower with my Japanese girlfriends. It was crowded, absolutely tiring but crazy fun. And my top favorites are those I had with Pido. Our favorite places to see cherry blossoms are Inokashira park in Kichijoji and Koganei park near Higashi-Koganei. We go on a weekday to avoid the crowds and we take our time walking around sniffing spring as much as we could. 

Let me share some of my favorite Sakura moments. And may you find your special spot under the Sakura tree. Prepare to fall in love. 
 

  Taken at a park near where we live. “One thing I love about being under a Sakura tree is the thought that even the most broken among us, can look up and see something beautiful, and dream endlessly.”



 

This Inokashira park gets lovelier in the spring. “Because Sakura comes and goes so quickly, somehow I get used to saying goodbye.”
   

 It can be crowded. But it is worth it. 
   

 Go to Chidorigafuchi near Imperial Palace to enjoy Sakura at night.        “On a few precious nights when Sakura stands out so beautifully unreal in the dark, you go through that moment where anything magical can happen. And I just started believing again.”  
 
 

I love Koganei Park in spring. One can enjoy a blanket of Sakura trees and see the open air museum as well. “How magical it is for some pink trees to change the landscape of one’s everyday, just like that.”

JOY in staying friends with Jehan

I was going through old files and photographs when I suddenly got reminded of how precious a gift of friendship is. The past few weeks have been spent with old friends who were visiting Japan. And each one of them reminded us a little bit of what was and who we were; of the smallest things that made us laugh and dream; of the silliest stories that kept us awake all night; and the small and big battles we had faced together. And what a sweet way to remind us of what Henry James once wrote: “And remember this, that if you’ve been hated, you’ve also been loved.”

And the photographs and letters and private messages reminded me of how eloquently God has spoken comfort through a timely phone call, a surprise visit, a lengthy e-mail of thanks, boxes of presents that make us think we were in their thoughts, a tight I-don’t-want-to-leave kind of hugs; late night catching up and reminiscing old days. God’s answers to some of our prayers come in the fanciest boxes. 

And when it is easier to beat ourselves for certain losses in life, this gift of friendship is totally an undeserved reward. How could someone as beautiful a soul as you, take the time to stay, really stay in my life? I have no words. 

To Jehan, our friend who has seen a lot of our beginnings, and has believed that there was a beautiful future for me and Pido, thank you for coming at the right time. God sent you as Pido and I both hit the lowest low in our many years here in Japan. Perhaps, God knew I needed a physical hug, an expression of faithful, unconditional love and many reasons to laugh to keep the childlike wonder. You have provided a solid perspective on how to set our eyes on Jesus even when there are reasons to doubt and feel afraid. Your testimony and life will always remind us that God is good and absolutely faithful regardless of where we are standing at the moment. Thank you for being a friend, a sister, a reader of my writing, a cheerleader, a family, a model of Christ-like love. Above all, thank you for giving us reasons to think of Japan as a beautiful and kind place. 

I am glad Adana has you as her Ninang. I want her to grow up knowing that she is thoroughly loved, cherished and worth all the time wasted playing blocks and castles. 

Places in Kawagoe, Kawaguchi, and Odaiba will always remind us of you. And so does any bus tour. 

See you soon! 

  
 
    
   

Joy in cruising through pregnant pauses, fat tears and high tea 

This year we celebrate our 7th. 

We hold in our hearts too many things to be thankful for. 

Our friendship, that makes everyday together worthwhile. 

Our small moments, that make us smile and laugh out loud. 

Our big moments, that make us cry, feel grateful and fall in worship.

Our many challenges and roller coaster adventures, that make us pray more far apart and together; believe more for things we can never ever dream of. 

Our many answered prayers, those constant reminders of God’s faithfulness and presence.

Our many unanswered prayers, those constant reminders of God’s character, love and fatherhood.

Our conversations, that make every moment more special. 

Our dreams, and the many nights we spent dreaming while in each other’s arms. 

Our fights and disagreements, the many times we ended up fighting for US and fighting to always stay.

Our early morning cuddling and late nights spent reading quietly next to each other, our dream of true love. 

Our days spent apart, and many sleepless nights. 

Our sweet memories of the times we paused, to think about what is best for the other, above our own needs and ways and even personal prayers. 

Our days spent staying close by when I shed fat tears and your love and voice remain gentle, strong and never judging, always trusting. 

Our long days and short years of wondering how God has brought us through seasons of parenting our little girl in His ways. 

And because September 23rd is our 7th. 

Thank you for being crazy enough to marry me and for being an answered prayer a thousand times over. You are my only truth about forever! 

Thank you for promising to take me to all the best afternoon teas in the world in the coming years to come. 

 

“I cried as he carefully slipped the ring in my finger and led me in a prayer of thanks. I indulged in that precious and undeserved gift of starting over.”
 
“And as I made my careful but eager steps as soon as the doors of the glass chapel opened, the look in my groom’s eyes snatched me away; as if there was a graceful force that glided me towards the man I knew I almost lost.”

Happy Anniversary, Baby! 

JOY in serving a hero

I am excited for my first ever business trip in Japan. Oh it is nothing fancy and my role is not that important. I am traveling to Nagoya first thing on Sunday morning to train some Filipino English teachers. And I will be doing the training back to back with our very own CNN Hero, Efren Penaflorida.

I became an instant fan of Efren after learning that he is a Christian with humble beginnings but with lofty dreams to make a difference in the lives of young children. His advocacy of “pushcart classrooms” where he and his team reach out to the street children to educate them, has been recognized on a global scale as a unique and sincere undertaking targeting the marginalized.

When I heard that he was coming to Japan through a special project that my husband is organizing through his company, I offered my services for free. After all, serving Efren and his team is the least I can do to indirectly help those children back home.

When I first came to Japan in 2004, my heart was swelling to serve in ways I was accustomed to. I served in the church; went to schools to preach God’s word and to lead small groups among students who have yet to know the Lord. I tried to serve in small ways despite my character flaws and own issues in following Chirst. I discipled young women, helped in planting a church, served in events that reached out to the young and once in a while spoke to large crowds about finding our purpose in Christ.

I came here thinking I could serve anywhere. I thought that my scholarship was not just for me. It was a tool for my life to be better but also to bless those around me. I came and served in small ways. I found my purpose in serving. In serving my bigger dreams started coming true in ways I never expected. And in serving, I became more dependent on God’s grace.

But somewhere along the way, doors were shut, it was like everything I knew about serving made a 180-degree turn. So what does one do when doors are closed? So what does one do when people start doubting your ability and sincerity to serve? So what does one do when suddenly, you are surrounded by those few who tell you there is nothing much you can do.

We have all been in those places in many seasons of our lives. And I prayed “God I want to serve you. I want to help another person’s dreams come true. I want to be an instrument of your love and grace. I want to lead someone in prayer just as so many others have served me by praying with me. I want to do something everyday that brings you glory and honor even without the applause of the crowd. I want to be able to lead young women to you. I want to be able to open our doors and home to those who need you. I badly want to serve you but sometimes I feel that I don’t have what it takes. Sometimes I long for people who would believe that there is something I can do for you.”

A good friend recently thanked me for just “asking how she was.” That simple question turned into counseling and prayer. On the same day, another person thanked me for taking some time to listen to her, for always pushing her to be better and for never giving up in her walk with God.

I could do all that not because I am good or just simply wonderful. I was able to do that because of the few people who had slowed down for me in the past, spotted me in the crowd and asked “How are you, Avic?” And I learned that to be a real leader who serves, one does not need any recognition, title, or a big name. It takes a heart to serve to really serve.

People like Efren are a gem. I can’t wait to learn from him and be inspired by his life and testimony. I am going to Nagoya to make sure he is ok, to take him and his group to dinner and to help promote his advocacy in Japan.

I don’t need to be someone really special to serve God and His people. And when some people close doors in places where I badly want to serve using my gifts and talents, I can always look up to God for comfort, for wisdom on my next steps and for peace knowing that the things we do in secret are seen by our faithful God. I can only pray that I won’t be someone who would make another person ever doubt his or her calling in life. I want to be someone who strongly believes that God can do mighty things through another person’s life.

God, please mould my heart to serve you in ways I will not be able to do on my own.

Because in serving, I will find lasting joy.

20150703-102255.jpg

20150703-102311.jpg