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

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Happy Holiday in Hong Kong

The last time I was in this airport was a little over six years ago, with family and fellow members of our Catholic community for a mission-oriented activity. This time was different. I was with my husband to attend a couples’ weekend activity together with about 50 other married couples from the Elim Couples Ministry from all over the Philippines. It was great to be in Hong Kong again, and I was excited about how God would speak to us and bless us during our short trip there.

Months before the event, my husband and I would regularly pray for this trip, most especially for provisions — registration fee, air fare, board and lodging, pocket money. And He provided for everything! Not in the same way that He provided for us during our Singapore trip (read about that here), but He provided just the same.

We left early Friday morning for Clark International Airport, as our flight to Hong Kong was at 7 am. (Thank You, Lord, for budget flights!) It was raining hard that morning, which was weird, since the previous days had been sunny. So I just kept on praying for a turbulence-free flight (I do not like turbulence). And guess what? We had such a smooth flight! I always love being above the clouds and looking at that sea of fluffiness. It never fails to draw me into worshiping the Lord of creation.

Arriving at the Hong Kong International Airport got me all excited, as we used to travel often to this place (while growing up, for vacation; and as a young adult, for both ministry and vacation…oh yeah, I almost was born here as my family lived here for several years — but that part of my life I don’t remember). I was excited to be with my hubby and for all that God had in store! (OK, I mentioned that already in the first paragraph.)

From the airport, we took the A21 bus (HK$33/person) that stopped right in front of our hotel — Metropark Hotel Mongkok. This was the first time we would be staying in this hotel (we got good rates via one of those online hotel booking sites; and my sister-in-law already stayed here a few times). Prior to our trip, we already researched for reviews, and the common comments were: 1) The bed was hard. 2) Great location, with the MTR station just across the street.

Good thing my Spirit-filled husband, while we were still in the waiting area of Clark airport, was inspired to pray: “That we may not complain during this trip, but only be grateful,” or something to that effect. That stuck. So when we entered the room and saw the cozy-looking bed, labeled “hard” by so many (I mean, how hard could a bed be? I tend towards the not-so-soft mattresses, anyway…maybe it’s the type I like), I sat on it. And…it…was…hard indeed! But grateful heart in tow, thank You, Lord! let me try the couch… Ah, yes…soft couch…thank You, Lord! Another thing I was thankful for was that the room provided free Wifi, and yes, the location was super — Prince Edward MTR station was right across the street.

Shot from the Kowloon Public Pier
Even as we arrived, we continued to pray that the Lord would bless our trip with wonderful experiences…and continue to provide us with His blessings. Our pocket money increased (yay!), and we even got the treat of a buffet breakfast in a five-star hotel. Never mind that in this cool, 17-degrees Celsius weather, I got sweaty while brisk walking a long distance to the venue (nothing was going to stop me from enjoying this blessing!).

OK, so the main sessions of our couples’ weekend was fun, insightful and enlightening. We had games, great talks (the Bible has so much to say about marriage!) and lots of food! We were also privileged to attend the Chinese Mass at the parish chapel nearby, where the parish priest asked our group to sing the “Lord, Have Mercy” and “Our Father” parts in Tagalog. It turned out to be a tri-lingual Mass — some parts in Cantonese, some in English and a few parts in Filipino. The priest was warm and welcoming, to say the least.

Our free time in Hong Kong was mostly dedicated to eating and shopping, as our stay there was limited. I told my husband that, due to our budget, if there was any shopping to do, it had to be in the toy store to buy pasalubong (gift from a trip) for our five-year-old son. But God had other plans. He’s the type who likes to make His children happy. We were still able to shop for ourselves (yes, I got to go to IKEA again, just like I did in Singapore), buy a few more items for pasalubong for family and friends, and even ended up with some extra cash when we arrived home.

My happy holiday at Hong Kong is a testament to God’s love, generosity and faithfulness. God strengthened our marriage, as well as our faith in Him. I can only say with the psalmist, “The LORD has done great things for us; Oh, how happy we were!” (Psalm 126:3, NABRE).

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Saturday, February 9, 2013

WAHM: Work-at-Home…M?

If you’re a WAHM, then you probably know what WAHM means: “Work-at-Home Mom” or “Work-at-Home Married.” I’m a WAHM when I live in the countryside (for half of the year, collectively). Some people wonder what I do when I’m away from the city (and they kind of hint that I’m probably on vacation!). Truth is, I’m still at work, as I distance-manage our publishing office via the Internet (thank You, Lord, for technology!). Aside from that, I get all the “action” that comes with being a WAHM. Here are some excerpts:

• While chatting online with my secretary, I suddenly hear a shout: “Mooooommmyyyyy!!!” My son has awakened from slumber. I excuse myself from the chat, and go to the room. “Cuddle time…one of my favorite times…in the morning,” I sing to him a song I made up, and take some minutes to cuddle him. I lead him in his morning prayers before having his breakfast prepared. Oh yeah, then I get back to my secretary.

• I focus on doing some reports, or writing, or editing…I take a break. Break = Activity Time (part of homeschooling my son). Break = “Mommy, can you play with me?” = I’m controlling one of his robots or one of his stuffed toys and we’re in some land far away. Break = Read-a-Book Time, like reading about and discussing epic battles in his illustrated Bible. Break = I’m making up a story with his felt dinosaurs who have different preferences for music — one likes classical, one likes jazz, one likes rock, one likes contemporary worship (son and I sing the tunes together…voila, homeschool music appreciation “class”!).

Here are the felt dinosaurs that "come to life" :)
• At any given time that I’m either coordinating with someone online or doing some work on my computer, any one or more of these things can happen:
·      Helper: “Ma’am, wala nang asukal/kape/LPG/_________.” [“We’ve run out of sugar/coffee (or whatever else….”)]
·      Doorbell rings and it’s either the security guard with the newspaper, meat delivery guy, water delivery guy or someone who needs to talk to the hubby.
·      I hear my son shouting at his nanny, so I have to do some intervention for peace to reign once again.
·      Doorbell rings, I open the door, smile (while quickly scanning my brain to try to recall who this familiar-looking man is with two strangers…oh! They happen to be guests of my father-in-law who’s in town). “Come in, come in!” I say, “Have a seat!” (Thank God, I am not so frumpy-looking today. Although my hair can go in multiple directions and can sometimes resemble gushing fountains in a plaza, I think it was somehow presentable that day. Phew!)

• I am in an online video call and someone from the office tells me that she sees the cook or the yaya (nanny) in the kitchen behind me. Woops…change angle.

• I am in an online video meeting with our management committee and I have to mute my microphone many times so as not to disturb the meeting with the mooing of the nearby cows, or with “Mommy! I want to bike!” or with the drilling of say, a panel in the kitchen.

WAHM: Work-at-Home…Madness? I can even enumerate other “Ms” but they won’t be encouraging: Mayhem, Mess, Monster (eek!). So I’d rather have…

WAHM: Work-at-Home…Marvel (Sounds like some super-hero…my son would love this one). Yes. “Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.” (Psalm 139:14, NLT)

Work-at-Home…Ministry. Yes. “But this beautiful treasure is contained in us—cracked pots made of earth and clay—so that the transcendent character of this power will be clearly seen as coming from God and not from us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7, VOICE)

Work-at-Home…Mercies. Yes. “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:21-23, NRSV)

And I can relax, because my Big Boss is also my Savior, my Strength, my Faithful Friend.

Can any of you relate? Feel free to post your stories in the comments! 

By the way, I finally have a Facebook page. Please like the page here so you can get updates. Thanks so much and God bless you!

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!