May you be blessed in the city, and blessed in the country! (Deuteronomy 28:3)

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Countryside Joys

The view I had last week 

Call me a countryside convert. Today, I can honestly say that I enjoy the countryside. Not so some years ago, as I mentioned in a previous post. As I sit here in our loft and hear the swaying of the trees outside, let me share with you some of the joys I’ve discovered living in this rural setting.

1. Nature and the Outdoors
With hardly any high-rises or concrete jungles to speak of, nature’s glory is displayed without obstruction. I can enjoy the view of the vast sky and see the mountain range on the horizon. With the beach just 15 minutes away from our house, I can enjoy the sight of the breathtaking sea, wave upon wave slapping its might against the cream shoreline. The green fields are also a refreshing sight, and the abundance of trees this side of town are a treasure. And the sunsets! The sky turns from blue to orange to pink…I never tire of seeing this often as I have my outdoor walks. My heart can only well up in praise of its Designer.

There is also the amusing side of being in these natural surroundings. One morning, as I opened our front door to leave the house, whaddaya know, a couple of cows were staring at me from the “next-door” field. Another time, I heard the neighing of a horse. Horses are a typical sight around our home, but this one turned out to be closer to our backyard wall than usual. And still another time, I walked past our dining room and saw a basket near our home office. I wondered whose it was and what was in it. As I moved closer and inspected the mysterious package, my heart skipped a beat while a live chicken greeted me! (Turns out my father-in-law, who was in town, ordered the critter for someone’s dinner — not ours, though! And I have no idea where Chickee’s demise took place.)

2. Space That's Not Cramped = Less Pollution
It’s spacious over here in the countryside where I live. (Well, the centro or main part of the provincial city is a little cramped, but that’s just a portion.) There’s also less pollution in the air and no mounds of trash lining the streets. There is close-to-zero traffic jams (unless there is some procession going on). And it hardly floods the way it does in the city I go back to every so often.

3. Peace and Quiet
When I first relocated to the countryside, I found it too quiet...I mean, 8 pm and it seemed everyone was already sleeping! (Thanks to the opening of the lone mall some years ago and some new eating places and department stores, there is some night buzz already.) But now I so appreciate the silence that helps me reflect on God’s goodness and helps to give me peace.

4. Simplicity
Living in the countryside has made me realize that life can be simpler and can be enjoyed without having to have certain things. I used to be such a mall person, so imagine my panic (OK, that’s too strong a word) when I found out there was no mall in the vicinity at the time I relocated. Like what in the world would I do come Sunday when I was used to hanging out in the mall on that day? (Hello…I learned to stay at home and enjoy it…or…go to the beach!)

Or when we relocated, we didn’t have the luxury of TV-watching. Yes, we had this black block of a TV set, but we couldn’t even access the free TV for some reason, and cable TV was not in our budget. So we’d just borrow movies…but the better thing was using our free time to exercise outdoors!

Another thing is that to this day, there is no Starbucks over here. I am such a coffee and coffee place person, so knowing there wouldn’t be any of those when I relocated got me into withdrawal of the mild kind. But the good news was they sold ground coffee in the palengke (wet market) and so I could enjoy brewed coffee at home (thanks to those who gave us coffee makers during our wedding!).

There you go, a list of my countryside joys. This living in the countryside bit has done so much good for my soul, actually. I would have never realized it before, but now I see God’s wisdom in it. It had to take some serious uprooting to help transform my character, among other things. I’m only grateful.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Road Trip on a 480-Kilometer Stretch

It was our first road trip from the city to the countryside after some years. The last one seemed so long ago that my five-year-old son couldn't even remember it anymore. 

We usually travel by plane (thanks to flight promos), and the trip takes only about an hour. But this time, traveling by car was necessary. First reason: my husband, who works in the countryside, spent Christmastime in the city and brought the car along. Second and main reason: plane fares were too steep and beyond our budget at this point (considering that Christmas expenses were high, and we also had to save for an upcoming trip abroad).

Oh, I forgot to mention: this road trip would take about…nine hours.

When the prospect of traveling by car surfaced late last year (due to circumstances mentioned above), I surprisingly found my heart at peace. (This was not so in previous months.) I believe this was the Lord's way of assuring me that all would be well. After all, His Word says that His peace that passes all understanding would stand guard over my heart and mind (Philippians 4:7), and well, verse 6 (NRSV) does say, "Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God."

I prayed that our trip would go well and that the Lord would help us through all the preparations. My main concern was my son, as I prayed that he wouldn't get any motion sickness (it already happened a couple of times in the past when he threw up in the car as a baby, then as a toddler…he even hyperventilated — I think that traumatized me more than him). I was able to get an anti-dizziness chewable for him, though (thank You, God), and he found it yummy.

A week before the trip, we already told our son about it. His reaction: "But it's going to take so long!" My response: "But it's going to be fun!" His comment: "I want to take the plane!" So my husband and I explained to him in a way that he could understand that these things require a budget and that a plane ride is expensive. "No, it's not!" he surmised. "Yes, it is!" my husband and I answered. 

So the day of our departure arrived, and we finally got to leave the city late in the afternoon. Our car was filled to the brim with stuff — a suitcase with my son's clothes and shoes, another with his toys, Christmas gifts from family and friends, hand-me-down garden lights from my uncle, my husband's golf set, my shoes, another bag dedicated to my son's stuffed toys, my computer bag, my husband's computer bag, food…oh yeah, and a walis (broom) still wrapped in green cellophane — a gift from a friend. And with all this, we still forgot the ham and cake! :)

First things first — we prayed for a safe, restful and enjoyable trip. It was also a blessing that my son was in good spirits…very good, in fact, that he was shouting in the car out of excitement — not for the trip, but for the game he initiated. He and his stuffed toy Grover (animated by me) would be looking out the window for monsters to battle against. We had to tell him to keep his tone down as the decibel level of his voice was quite deafening.

So Grover got tired of looking for monsters, as he wasn't a fighter anyway. (I wanted to just enjoy listening to the jazz music playing in the background.) Later on, it was Bubba the Bear's turn to keep my son entertained. (OK, Bubba would be me again…did I ever tell you I do puppetry?)

I enjoyed the sight of fields like this one

It didn't take long before he started to ask the "Are we there yet?" question…as he realized this was, indeed, a long trip. The solution: sleep. Which he did, mostly after our dinner stop. (He was so cozy with a pillow and blankie, and his stuffed toys.) Meanwhile, I had some time to pray and enjoy the sight of fields and the night sky. While doing so, the Lord assured me yet again that He is Emmanuel — God with us — and He wasn't just up there in the clouds somewhere, but that He was right there with us…in the car…with all our stuff. Heartwarming. I pretty much slept through half of the trip — confession: with my mouth open at times (even during a police checkpoint where I remember being about poise!).

Can you guess what our snack was? hehe...

We arrived at our destination at about 1:45 pm, safe and sound. It was a good trip. My son quickly woke up on his own. We were welcomed by cold weather — nice! After unloading our stuff and thanking the driver, we had a post-midnight snack.

From city to country — one home to another — thank You, Lord!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Dreaming God-Sized Dreams

I'm joining the link-up on Holley Gerth's site. Read more
on God-sized dreams at

I recently came across Holley Gerth’s site and she talked about God-sized dreams during the New Year. Her definition goes:

God-sized Dream = A desire in your heart for more of what God has for you.

Before delving into the God-sized dream, let me just say that last year was a super blessed one for me! It was the year I turned 40, and the year when the Lord began to restore many of my passions and dreams! These were somehow set aside as “life happened” — my commuter lifestyle, that is. But last year brought a newness with it. Somehow, the Lord allowed me to come across books and other material that talked about calling, gifting, dreaming (without me even searching for them). I’ve been pondering on these for sometime now, and have written down several dreams and goals for the year. I will not share them all here, but one of the desires that I believe the Lord has put in my heart for over a year now is this:

To reach out to women who may be undergoing situations that I’ve gone through or am going through, stuff like:
1. Having a commuter lifestyle — living in two different places, having to shuttle back and forth every so often
2. Having to be apart from my husband many times
3. Having to deal with so many changes on a regular basis
4. Relocating, traveling
5. Marriage, pregnancy and motherhood
6. Being a working mom and a work-at-home mom
7. Loneliness and fears
8. And more!!!

There is this desire in my heart to encourage and inspire women, to be in solidarity with them, to show them that there is hope in Jesus. I think somehow this blog is one way of doing that, as I simply share how the Lord has worked and continues to work in my life, as well as the lessons I’ve learned along the way.

Can you relate to any of the above situations I mentioned? Well then, know that you’re not alone. Feel free to share you story in the comments! Or if you just need someone to pray with you, post your prayer request in the comments, or feel free to send me an email at michnicolas(at)gmail(dot)com. God bless you!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Wedding Preps & Miracles

January 7, 2013 marks our 7th wedding anniversary — thank You, Lord, for my wonderful hubby! And thank You, Lord, for these seven blessed years! Happy 7th, Honey!

With this in mind, I decided to share with you, dear readers, how God worked through our wedding preparations. I must say that the time of our engagement was really exciting! But it was also challenging. If you read my post on my husband’s proposal, then you know that he had already relocated to the province. This meant that we would only be together on weekends when he would go back to the city, and most of the preparations had to be done while we were apart.

We decided on a January wedding. That gave us about six months to prepare. We prayed every step of the way. We prayed that God would lead us to the Church suited for us, as well as the venue. We asked for wisdom regarding who our priest ought to be, as well as our entourage. We prayed about the liturgy, as well as how to go about the reception. We prayed that God would lead us to the right suppliers. We prayed for guidance regarding our honeymoon. We prayed for provisions.

God answered prayer upon prayer, and even did miracles! One of the things I clearly recall was how it worked out that we were the last couple to be accepted in some required pre-marriage seminar — another couple didn’t show up, so we were accommodated. Otherwise, the next schedule was on the following day; thing was, my fiancĂ© could only be in the city on that day, and he would have gone back to the province by that time. God worked out our schedules!

Another thing God worked out was how he provided a priest for our wedding. We already invited one of our priest-friends to officiate, and he gladly agreed. But one day, just weeks before our wedding, he called me up saying he could not officiate the wedding. He apologized profusely, but did not tell me the reason. But God led us to another priest-friend, who was gracious enough to say yes on such short notice. Another miracle!

Still another answered prayer was regarding our honeymoon. I prayed for a message from the Bible, asking God to somehow show us where we ought to go. When I randomly opened my Bible, the passages had the words palm, springs and desert. And guess what? A generous soul offered us superb accommodations in a place called Palm Springs, California (a desert, actually!) — her wedding present to us! Another would pay for our airfare, and other generous souls also provided for the pocket money!

Here was the clincher: a week before our wedding, we still couldn’t get a booking for our trip. During our Tuesday prayer meeting before our wedding on Saturday, I prayed so hard for God to give us a booking. While I was kneeling, I sensed that God was telling me it was done. True enough, the following day, our travel-agent friend called and finally confirmed that she was able to book us, and our flight would be that coming Monday!

At Joshua Tree National Park

At Disneyland
It was such a miracle that I still was dumbfounded when we arrived in the US only days after our booking. God provided for everything for that 10-day honeymoon — we didn’t have to spend a dime from our pockets! (Aside from two city tours, we were also able to go to Disneyland and Universal Studios, and do lots of shopping — courtesy of God’s provision!)

We decided at the very beginning that we wanted the Lord to be the center, not just of our wedding preps and the wedding proper, but of our marriage. And at the very beginning, He already began to surprise us with His favor — not because we deserved it, but because He is such a loving and generous Father!

 I believe God wants to answer your prayers and work miracles in your life as well! Or maybe He’s already answered many of your prayers! Feel free to share your story in the comments. ;)