THROWBACK TO ME | Part 3

It’s the last day of the year, and I guess this post is pretty apt to bid it adieu. To fully close this chapter, to truly move on and move forward. So here it is, the last part of this throwback series—a letter to my 25-year old self…

***

I’ll skip the pleasantries this time, I know you’re in no mood for such. Given your blank eyes with a semi-hint of an icy glare, I think it’s best to get to the point. I know for a fact that you are not fine at this time. I am your 30-year old self and I’ve seen right through you. You are not fine. Despite the I’m-doing-well spiel you’ve told over and over to others and to yourself, the wounds from this season would tell otherwise.

It was a difficult decision to make. There were uncertainties and risks to consider. Still, you took a step of faith. It was exhilarating at first. It made you feel so brave and bold and alive. But when that thing that you were believing for didn’t push through, your faith started to dwindle. You started to question yourself. Then you started to question God, and that’s when it really spiralled down. You don’t want to admit it at this time, because it does sound blasphemous to say so, but you’re disappointed with God. You feel like He has abandoned you, that He made a fool out of you, that He has hurt you. You feel like God has offended you so you want to shut Him out. Still, something deep inside is trying to remind you that He is good and that He is faithful. Amidst the shouts of hurt is that gentle whisper of His love.

It seems bleak at this point, but believe me when I say that breakthrough will come. Healing will come, and restoration will come. Oh just you wait and see, God will do amazing things! The things that you have sown in faith, you will surely reap by His faithfulness. Faith, my dear, is never in vain. For we have a God who hears, a God who sees, a God who feels. The best thing about putting your faith in Him is that you can be assured that He only has the best for you.

I can see you’re trying to hold those tears from falling down your eyes. Don’t. Let them fall, let it all out. As you grab that box of tissue, let me encourage you with this: God will get you through this. Even at your lowest point when you would want to let go of your faith, He will not let you. God will never let go. He continues to woo you and defend you. That’s how much He loves you.

A couple more things you ought to take note of for future reference: first, take heed of wisdom’s call. Take it alongside faith. Take it in its different forms such as God’s word and godly counsel. Second thing to take note of is humility. Pride will only fertilize offenses. Better to come broken before the Lord and learn from your mistakes. And third, don’t be cornered by isolation. Don’t stop being in fellowship with people. Meet with them, pray with them, spend time with them. You’ll be surprised how much it helps.

So go on, get your faith on. Be strong and courageous. Don’t let one season define you. God isn’t done writing your story, so hold on tight. The best is yet to come!💕

FREEBIES! YEAR END PRINTABLES

It’s December y’all!!! A couple more days and it’s Christmas, then it’s the countdown to the new year. I’m sure a lot of you guys are getting pretty busy with all the parties, reunions, and gift shopping. But before you get all too hectic and wrapped up on that, I hope you’ll take your time reflecting on what your year has been. I think it also serves as a good exercise on counting our blessings.

Earlier this month, I met up with two groups of ladies that I’ve known for years. One of the traditions I’d like to have as we celebrate our Christmas party is to give out pieces of paper where they can reflect on the year that was and the year to come. I’ve had a couple of people asking about them after I posted pictures on Facebook and Instagram, so I decided to put them up here on the blog as well.

The forms are print-ready on letter size paper (8.5 x 11 in.) so make sure your paper is of the same size to ensure quality. Once printed, cut along the dotted lines on the form to get the individual pieces. I have two versions for your to choose from: the colored blocks version like the one below, and the black & white version. For the black & white version, you can print it on colored paper to save on ink. I printed mine on pastel-colored ones to go with our party theme, then tucked them neatly inside a notebook which also served as a gift.

jawritten_year-end-printables-2016

For the 2016 part, I gave it the title ‘grateful and blessed’ to remind us that at the end of the day, we are exactly that. There are three boxes to fill out: moments enjoyed, challenges faced, and lessons learned. Personally, I find it kind of therapeutic to  go through this by month just so I don’t forget anything.

jawritten_year-end-printables-2017

For 2017, I put ‘immeasurably more’ in reference to Ephesians 3:20 as a reminder that despite all of our goals and plans, we have a God who can do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine. In it are three boxes to write things that we would like to be in faith for the coming year. It’s divided in three areas: personal growth, family goals, and ministry opportunities.

Click on the links below to download the free printables. Oh, and remember that these are for personal use only and not for commercial use. Thanks guys!😊

Jaswritten Year End Printable (Black & White)

Jaswritten Year End Printable (Color Blocks)

And here’s a bonus for you! A simplified version I used with my campus life group.

Jaswritten Year End Printable (Simplified)

THROWBACK TO ME | Part 2

Well hello there 18-year old me! You’re officially of legal age, although you certainly still don’t feel like it. Case in point: that Hello Kitty cake for your birthday. But it’s all good. High school went by so fast, it felt like you woke up the next day and boom you’re in college. It was a bit of a challenge during your freshman year as you transitioned from provincial life to city living. Aside from being apart from your family, you don’t always see your high school buddies that much anymore.

Now, you’re on your sophomore year and things are getting better for you. Your block mates are becoming like family to you. You attend classes together, eat lunch together, laugh together, hang out together, and support each other. And despite your previous uncertainty about your course, you realize that this is actually something you really like. Word of caution though: things will get harder in the next years so hold on tight. There will be days when you’d want to quit and go back home because a professor made you cry. There will be days when you’d feel like you’re out of ideas and words because of so much revisions. There will be days when you’d prefer to skip class because you’ve been missing a good sleep. Yet you get up, you try again, you finish what you started. Not just because you know it’s the right thing to do, but because you know you’ll regret not giving it your best. 

More than the technical stuff you’re learning from school, you’re also learning practical life skills that will help get you through adulthood. Since you don’t have a laptop at this time, you learn the value of time management. From writing your draft on yellow paper, you then have to walk to one of the computer shops along Pedro Gil to encode and print your paper. (Sadly, that old shop you used to go to has been demolished). After this, you brisk walk or run your way back to your dorm so as not to miss the curfew. I kinda miss this now actually. Not the brisk walking part, but the discipline and perseverance of the whole process. Around this time, you’re also learning how to budget your weekly allowance, how to commute around Manila, and how to cook pancit canton without a stove. You even learned how to escape a smelly stranger who thought you were up for human trafficking. Good on you, girl.

What you have not learned at this point, however, is how to handle your heart. Yes, I’m talking about that guy. That guy that you like so much, you’re willing to break you mom’s rule of no boyfriend till you graduate. That guy. Your 18-year old self is probably blushing right now, but please focus and listen to what I’m about to say. Sit properly and look at me. Dear, he’s not the one. I know it sounds harsh, but it’s the truth. You can’t see now because you don’t want to see it. Your feelings have blinded you. But deep down you know, no mater how hopeful you are, that it’s not for your best. This pseudo thing you have with him can’t even be called a relationship. You keep on hoping that after his fling with another girl, he’ll finally choose you. The cycle keeps repeating, but has he chosen you? No, he has not. It’s like you are kept as a spare, but never an option. And you don’t want that. You are worth more than that. Thankfully, the Lord will intervene on this situation and you will eventually see the silver lining. Ties will be cut, tears will be shed. You will live your life, he will live his. But fret not, here’s a positive glimpse of the future: in 2011, it will make sense all the more why it was best for you and for him not to have been together. And you will be eternally grateful that God has saved you from a would have been disaster.

As I reach the end of this letter, there are a couple more things I’d like to share with you as you spend your last years in college. First, saying yes to Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior is the best decision you’ve ever made. It may not seem like you’re growing as a Christian, but don’t give up. Nourish that relationship, continue to read your bible, and surround yourself with people who will lead you closer to Him. Second, things will not always go the way you planned them to be (one word: thesis). Take heart and be patient. It’s just a momentary hurdle, you can overcome. And lastly, get your head up high. Better days are ahead, so don’t miss out on this great adventure called life.

***

Want to read the first letter in this 3-part series? Click here.

I’ll be posting the last part before the end of the year, so stay tuned 💕

THROWBACK TO ME | Part 1

With her cassette tape and walkman in tow, she plops herself down to sit on the floor. She takes a book from the shelf and flips the page to where a new chapter begins…

This is the first in a 3-part series on what I would like to tell my younger self. Each post is addressed to myself at ages 11, 18, and 25. These ages proved to be turning points in my life for personal reasons, each with a basketful of lessons I carry till today. And my prayer is that you, my dear readers, will learn a thing or two from them as well.

Ready? Good, let’s start the throwback in 1997 with fifth grader me.

***

Hello, and congratulations on reaching adolescence! Wait, sorry. That sounds weird, as if you just won puberty as a jackpot prize. Let’s start again. Hello there! How’s being an almost legit teenager like for you? There, much better. This is your 30 year old self writing to you. Don’t freak out… breathe, it’s okay. I’m simply writing to give you a few tips on how to survive your teenage years. And maybe, just maybe, even give you a peek of—wait for it—the future!

This puberty thing is hitting you pretty hard. Eyeglasses, pimples, plus you have braces coming up. I understand how awkward it feels. Body image is a personal issue you’re aware of but would rather not talk about. Well my dear, you can’t avoid the subject forever. You’ve been called a lot of names because of the way you look and it hurts you. Your self-esteem is dropping and you’re starting to believe that you’re not enough. Not pretty enough, not tall enough, not good enough. Girl, stop. You need to stop believing these lies. Talk to you mom and to your sister about it, don’t be ashamed to ask for help. After all, they are the ones who know you and love you inside and out since day one. Remember that you are beautiful, and you are more than enough.

You don’t see it now, but this self-esteem thing is also affecting your social life. You’re trying so hard to be part of what you think is the cool squad. Trying so hard to fit in. Trying so hard to be someone you’re not. Here’s a dose of wisdom for you: listen to your mother. Yes, you heard me right. When she tells you she’s not comfortable with you hanging out with these people, listen to her. She knows what she’s talking about. She sees something you don’t. So take heed of mommy’s advice. Besides, who said you’re not cool anyway? You are your own brand of cool. Books and swords and care bears and milk are totally your thing. Embrace it, don’t hide it. And don’t worry about not having friends, you’re definitely having a bunch of them. These are the friends who will stick with you like glue and love you like crazy.

School is wearing you down at this point. The pressure of keeping up your grades and maintaining a position on the honor roll is getting to you. You are tired of competing. But you’re not just tired, you’re scared. You’re scared of being nothing when you’re no longer on top. Dear one, I want to let you know that there is more to life than this. You probably think it’s such a cliché just hearing me say that. But trust me, it’s true. You will later realize that the basis of your value is not on what you can do, but on what God has already done.

Another thing I want to talk to you about is dad. Hey hey, don’t step away. I know emotions like these make you feel uncomfortable. After all, you’re not used talking about it at this time. But I know how it feels. I know how you go inside your closet to hide there and cry. As tears fall down your eyes, you whisper a name you’ve been missing all your life. “Daddy.” It’s okay. I miss him too. I still do. But we don’t have to live our lives just wishing he wasn’t dead. Growing up without a father can be sad and hard at times, but it’s not impossible. Years from now, you will know about the Father’s love. The heavenly Father, who sees every tear and hears every heartbeat, is right there with you. He protects you, cares for you, and provides for you. He loves you, fully and completely. And there is nothing in heaven or earth that will be able to separate you from His love.

I guess that’s it for now. Give yourself a tap on the back because you’ll definitely survive adolescence. Don’t make a fuss about high school, you’re gonna be fine. You’re going to meet new friends and share lots of fun memories together (I’ve got three hints for you: thread, cards, Noli Me Tangere).

Oh, and about the other future stuff… here are a couple of things you might be interested to know. Boybands are not forever. Shocking, I know. Some go their separate ways, some try a solo career. Some never get back together, but there are those who reunite and have a revival concert. You’ll eventually outgrow MTV and Sweet Valley Twins. You still like researching about Tudor history. You still wonder about Camelot. You still care about the care bears. And yes, you still love to drink milk.

RUSH IN TO REST

Deadlines, duties, chores. Meetings, commutes, conundrums. Worries, sufferings, heartaches. It all gets so tiring, doesn’t it? And surely, we’ve all been tired at some point. After hours, or days, or weeks, or months, or years, we feel the exhaustion. It starts to make us feel restless… uneasy, tense, anxious.

Some time ago, I found myself feeling this way. I felt emotionally worn out, my spiritual energy heavily depleted. Craving for rest, I kept coming back to Matthew 11:28-30. As I dived deeper into it, I found myself being drawn to verse 29. Here I found nuggets of wisdom on how to respond to Jesus’ invitation of rest.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

Take my yoke upon you…

Truly, Jesus knows how weak we can be when we lack rest. That’s why He offers us His yoke. According to the dictionary, a yoke is a wooden frame placed over the necks of two animals  attached to a plough or a cart that the animals pull. In farming, a weaker animal is usually yoked together with a stronger one to increase its strength. Some may view the yoke as something restrictive or even oppressive, but not this one. The yoke that Jesus offers liberates us from the stress and anxiety of unrest. His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

Another noteworthy thing to mention about yoke is the fact that its Latin word origin means ‘to join.’ So when Jesus tells us to take His yoke, it’s like He’s saying this: “Join me, walk with me, stick with me. Let me lead you, let my presence carry you through.” The question is, are we allowing Jesus to lead us?

3m sprungbrett / 3m diving board - spring board

… learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart

As we walk with Jesus, He also gives us the privilege to learn directly from His example. He teaches us that the antidote to our restlessness is gentleness and humility. It may sound illogical at first, but it does make sense when you look closer at it.

Have you ever been so tired you just want to lie down and not care about anything else? I have. I was tired from days of work and events and in this particular instance, I had no choice but to walk home from the office under the pouring rain. As soon as I got home, I went straight to bed without changing my clothes, washing my face, or brushing my teeth. Didn’t bother to check my phone or text my mom to let her know I got home safely. I was too irritated, too frustrated, and too tired for anything else to matter. Exhaustion has that effect on us, I guess. It has a way of getting us to a point of numbness—of no longer caring for anything or anyone other than ourselves.

Jesus knows about weariness. After healing hundreds and preaching to thousands of people, Jesus must have been tired. Aside from that, walking for miles under the hot desert sun must have exhausted Him. And yet, Jesus kept his cool. Is that even possible? How does learning about gentleness ease our lack of rest? Well, I checked the word gentleness and found that it is synonymous with tenderness. Hmmm, interesting thought. If weariness can make our hearts cold and numb, maybe that’s why Jesus encourages us to be gentle like Him—to have our hearts tender before God. In the midst of our tiredness, we can rely on God to comfort us and refresh our weary souls. Keeping our hearts tender also safeguards us from being unkind to others. It’s one of the side effects of weariness: it can make us cranky and irritable, we end up saying or doing unkind stuff to people.

How about being burdened? What does being humble have to do with it? Well, personally, I noticed that being burdened comes from taking in too much stuff that it leaves no more room from rest. I noticed this in my life during those times I felt heavy laden. I was saying yes to tasks and events I can no longer fit in my calendar. I was getting myself involved in problems I can no longer solve. I kept on taking them all in because I wanted to prove something, as though I am life’s only solution. I had a messianic complex, you might say. Aside from these, being burdened can also come from holding on to past offenses, hurts, and issues.

Whether its from overlapping schedules or hidden hurts, things become painstakingly burdensome when we choose to hold on to them. This is why Jesus asks us to be humble in heart. Humility reminds us that we have nothing to prove. It acknowledges that God is in control, and that He is sovereign over every burden. It reminds us that we can confidently let go, because God can take care of us.

So, how are you feeling today friend? Weary? Burdened?

Go ahead, take Jesus’ yoke and learn from Him. He’s waiting for you 💙