Category Archives: Reflections

Two Warriors

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“I promise to fight for you, and with you.”

I got published in the July-August issue of Health & Home Magazine. It was a piece I had written and originally posted in this blog, when I was still single, and a romance with Henrik, my now fiancé, was not even a fantasy.

The year before I wrote that piece had been spent mostly healing and learning from a heartbreak. Integral to that process was listening to stories, of men particularly – friends, kuyas, brothers, even Henrik (we had already become friends that time). I was inspired by their stories of heartbreak, and how they not just moved on, but moved forward, from the pain they experienced.

In one of the more memorable conversations I had, a kuya shared to me, “I was in so much pain, that I desperately prayed to God, ‘Lord, please do not let me miss the lesson here. I do not want to waste this pain.”

That, I realized, is the way we must respond to pain. God will allow us to experience pain to catch our attention, and to teach us extremely valuable lessons. The lessons vary for each of us – only the Maker knows what we need, and each lesson is always “customized” and “personalized”.

By a divine purpose unknown to us, we are allowed to go through pain, and we emerge broken and bleeding, and then we are left with wounds. These are battle marks, tokens of past experiences that have contributed to who you are today.

As I prepare for the journey of marriage with the love of my life, I am learning that it is crucial to understand your own, as well as your partner’s, wounds. Marriage brings two people together in such close contact that it is very much inevitable for old wounds and hurts to be surfaced. Learning about each other’s triggers and tendencies are an important part of preparing for marriage.

Of course, married couples may point out, and rightly so, that nothing will ever really prepare you completely for marriage. The married experience is vastly different from the unmarried couple experience, they say.

What we can do though, as an engaged couple, is to be filled with the Holy Spirit and practice grace towards each other. Oh, how true this is, especially in this season where I am constantly tempted to transform into a bridezilla! I am sure we will need much bigger doses and heaps of grace and the fruits of the Spirit later in marriage.

It is also important to listen, listen, and listen, and to speak the truth in love. We are the most honest and vulnerable with each other than we have ever been in our relationship so far, and it is both beautiful and painful at the same time. The assurance of love and safety is necessary as we speak the truth to teach other — another lesson I am currently learning.

In all this, I thank God for the blessings of this season. He answered my prayers by bringing me a warrior who sees and celebrates the warrior in me too. We have much to learn, certainly. And yet… the grace I experience in this season excites me to keep fighting for, and with, my warrior.

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Blessings of the Preps

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When Henrik and I decided to get married in the US, we knew a lot of waiting would be involved. It’s not the waiting per se that makes it hard, however. It’s the uncertainty of the whole process.

People react and respond differently when faced with uncertainties. As for me, depending on the severity of the situation, I can get worried, anxious, frustrated, sad, and even angry sometimes.

Recently, I have noticed in myself that I have been feeling these more often than usual.

They say one’s character is measured by how well you react and respond to situations. I am embarrassed to admit that I have not been the most patient and grace-filled person as of late. So in an effort to change that, I have been thinking on things I can be thankful for. Basically, I’ve been counting my blessings.

I thank God that I am getting married. I tend to take it for granted that the fact that I am engaged, and getting married, is a very beautiful gift wished for, prayed for, and often coveted by many people. Haven’t I dreamed of this countless times before?

I thank God for Henrik. He has been very supportive this whole time, and patiently endured my rants (most of the time, lol). You know you have a keeper when you have someone who is very much optimistic in marrying you. He has also been bravely and valiantly doing majority of our preparations.

I thank God for Henrik’s family and community, who have been helping Henrik with the preps. I never thought I’d have a hands-on groom (I don’t know why, but as a younger person I always assumed I’d have to do most of the preps lol), and now his own family is hands-on too! They’ve been doing their best with the preps, while doing their best to let me in on the plans. I’ve also found it amusing, and also very encouraging by the random messages from Henrik’s friends.

I thank God for this season of waiting. It is not the most fun, but it is a good season of refinement. God knows what I truly need, and through this season, He is surfacing many things from my heart. It is both a humbling and encouraging experience.

It is also a good reminder of what this season is supposed to be about — the pursuit of Christ-likeness and the refinement of our character. And this, as any Christ-follower knows, is always good preparation for marriage.

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The Last Day of my 25th

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Five more hours. Five more hours and I turn 26.

Twenty six.

Despite all my disappointments and heartaches, my 25th year was still an amazing year, a year filled with changes, so many changes. It is, therefore a year filled with so many adventures. And as all adventures are, there is excitement, and there is fear, and just a lot of discomfort.

On my 25th year, I chose not to graduate.

It was a big decision, but one that I really decided was worth the sacrifice for a dream I wanted and had been praying for a long time. The decision came with some consequences, like not having a place to stay in Manila anymore, having to endure the discomfort of having to move my stuff a lot. And when my batchmates marched on the day of their graduation, I wondered if I made the right decision.

On my 25th year, I gained a new family.

Living outside IGSL, I lost something valuable — a community I had almost taken for granted. But I became part of a new church family, a new dgroup with wonderful people in it. The role these people played in my life in those uncomfortable transitions is very important, and I hold them dear to my heart.

On my 25th year, I traveled to South Asia.

It was the cross-cultural trip and exposure I had prayed for since 2014, since I determined to be a cross-cultural missionary. Those four months were the craziest, most difficult, most fun, faith-stretching and challenging months I have ever experienced.

Meeting different people, immersing myself in a different culture, seeing God’s power at work in the lives of the brothers and sisters in this part of the world was awe-inspiring. Being the recipient of such kindness and hospitality from these people was extremely humbling.

Knowing that ministry partners and friends contributed to send me there, and kept praying for me throughout the entire trip, was even more humbling.

But was also challenging, because of the very different and unfamiliar culture, for sure. The homesickness, the unfamiliarity, and many other unexpected changes stretched me to the point of breaking and revealed many things about my character.

On my 25th year, I fell in love.

I fell in love with a wonderful man who was everything I prayed for, and more. It was an unexpected gift I received, one that I am still somehow getting used to (hashtag ldr struggles), but at the same time, something I know is so right for me. I love you, Henrik. You inspire me in so many ways, and I pray that I can be a strong help for you, just as you have been to me so many times already.

My 25th year was filled with adventure — fear, excitement, and discomfort.

My 25th year was filled with proof of God’s kindness and love, a reminder that He truly loves me. So in these last 5 hours of my 25th year, I celebrate the Father, who showered me with protection and provision, I celebrate the Son, the sacrifice of whom I will not be able to enjoy these things, and I celebrate the Holy Spirit, who guides me and reminds me of these things.

On the 26th of February, I shall turn twenty six. But for now, I relish these last several hours of my 25th.

 

#throwbackpost: I just couldn’t say “No.”

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[I wrote this 8 years ago, in 2009, and first posted it on Facebook. Judging by the date and the comments, at the time I was a college student who had started doing her undergrad thesis, I was involved in several clubs on campus, I was a youth leader for our city-wide church youth organization, and I also had a part-time job. In other words, I was #stressed.]
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I just couldn’t say “No.”

I’ve been in such a daze these past few weeks. Been so caught up in a wide array of activities such that my mind has shifted to “numb” mode, sort of like a defense mechanism against all the physical ruckus I’ve been caught in. No time for other things. No time for haircuts, or vanity (believe me, make-up was the least of my priorities), nor for other internet joys like blogging (I can’t believe I’ve reached this point when Internet for me meant WORK).

And because I was so physically drained, my emotions have as well been put in a precarious mode. Because added to all the strain I’ve been under was the pressure dumped over me by commitments I’ve made and responsibilities I wasn’t necessarily willing to accept. It was what was making me feel overloaded. When the heart is light, but labor is heavy, I can fly. When my heart is heavy, work becomes a drudgery.

That’s me. No sleep, no strength plus burdened heart equals messy me.

And yet in those rare instances when I was able to catch some moments of peace and quiet (which was always the few minutes before I fall asleep in bed, at dawn), I’ve been reflecting…

What IS the source of all this? What, indeed, is the source of all this misery?
It was, as I’ve mentioned, the pressure loaded by my commitments.
Why did I have to make such commitments?

And the answer dawned on me, slowly and painfully, like a knife being slowly stabbed on my already pained heart.

I couldn’t say “no.” I couldn’t bring myself to disappoint people, nor leave them dissatisfied. It wasn’t just any kind of people, mind you. And yet therein lies the problem. They were still mere people. See, I’ve been so caught up in getting acceptance, so trapped in worldly pursuits. Pathetic. And so priorities were rearranged, decisions compromised….

“NO.” Such a powerful little word that, if uttered at the right moment in the right way, with precision and clarity of mind such that the person convincing you otherwise could see your decisiveness, could set an entirely different path altogether.

As such, I lacked courage to say it. It was in my mind, alright. But I lacked will. The very little will I had was overpowered by something stronger, something I underestimated.

All this happened a few weeks ago, and I am simply grateful for His loving forgiveness. Weaknesses were exposed yet again. Just as an individual with cancer has to have himself incised as soon as possible in order for the cancerous tissues to be taken out, so was it necessary for myself to undergo such an “operation” to expose my fatal motives.

Still, anyone would say that such fatal intentions would surely grow back again, without proper guidance.

What worries and pains me most is how I shall face future scenarios, when decisions by then would be much heavier and of more consequence. These decisions I’ve spoken of are but mere trifles compared to future decisions I would have to make. Could I be trusted to make them? Could I be trusted to stand my ground? Could I be trusted to say “No”, if need be?

I heavily doubt it.

So please, I implore, help me, God.

Have you had trouble saying “No”?

Dear Warrior, let’s journey together

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To my Warrior,

We have found each other.

The mere thought still fills me with a sense of unbelievable wonder and delight.

And you, my dear warrior — you are a sky full of stars, an ocean of deep wonders, a mountain of marvels.

You are a lover and slave of the High King of heavens and earth, a servant of people, a friend to many.

You are an encourager, supporter, and pursuer of my heart.

The road is still long.

There will still be storms to brave, and depths to journey, perhaps through dark tunnels, and even through barren heights when the sun will be high and unforgiving.

But we are together now.

Somehow, that brings me comfort and strength in this new journey.

With the King’s blessing on us, and with family and community cheering us on, I still promise to fight for you, and with you.

Fighting with you,

Your Warrior Princess

KILIGology: Thinking Straight While Kinikilig

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“He seems like a really nice guy.”

It was a Saturday night, and my friends and I had just met with My Special Friend, a guy I’d been getting to know in the last few months. Things were getting serious, and my friends had risen to the occasion to meet him and get to know him, a.k.a. grill him in a nice way, a.k.a. ask him some hard questions.

I was happy with how the night turned out. My friends delivered and really did ask him some serious, hard questions, and in my opinion, Guy delivered as well – he seemed really honest. Guy also said some really kilig-inducing stuff, stuff that made me feel na napakahaba ng hair ko. My kilig levels were off the charts.

Then Guy left, and my friends and I jumped into “deliberation” (like a panel, lol). As my friends and I continued talking, however, I felt the kilig slowly wearing off. While my friends were really, genuinely happy for me, they also raised some significant, legitimate questions about the Guy.

I’ve been thinking really hard about this, because as my closest friends know, in the past, whenever I felt kilig, all reason and logic fled me. This has then resulted to embarrassingly bad decisions, which then led to painful, painful heartbreaks.

But did it really have to? Did my kilig and my ability to be objective have to be mutually exclusive? In other words, hindi ba talaga pwedeng Utak AT Puso?

My musings, compounded with past conversations I’ve had with my Counselor, have led me to some things.

I MUST ACKNOWLEDGE MY kilig.

There is no point in denying this, or playing it down. It is a lesson I learned the hard way: honesty, especially to myself, is important.

I MUST IDENTIFY THE ROOT OF MY kilig.

This is the lengthy part. Bear with me as I explain this.

Identifying what made me feel kilig is important, so that I could identify which of my core emotional needs is/are being met.

When I think about it, the reason for my kilig was actually a sum total of Guy’s efforts and attitude towards me (his consistent respectful communication, his gifts, time spent with me, etc.).

But also, there were certain specific moments na kinilig ako. Like that night with me and my friends, when he said that “Sarah is worth the effort.”

On a scale of 1-10, my kilig level shot up to 15.

Now, back to emotional needs. We all have emotional needs, and when these needs are met, we feel “positive” emotions – contentment, happiness, kilig, etc. (While these needs are valid and legitimate, sometimes we don’t meet these needs in healthy, or legitimate ways. But that’s another blog post for another time.)

Two of my high emotional needs are (1) for me to feel that I am worthy… of friendship, of achievements, and of pursuit, and (2) to be thought worthy of someone I admired and respected. So when Guy, who I admired and respected, said that he thought I was worthy, I was on cloud nine.

It was important for me to identify this, because I am reminded that these needs could actually be met through other legitimate ways. This is why even without My Special Friend, or any guy for that matter, pursuing me, I can still be contented and fulfilled. Already, this thought lifts off whatever pressure I might feel to be in a relationship.

A more important reminder and realization, however, is that ultimately, my emotional needs will never be completely, fully met by My Special Friend, no matter how awesome he is. And I shouldn’t expect him to; it is an unfair expectation to put on him.

This is strongly tied to my faith — my needs are already met ultimately by God.

As I realized and was reminded of these, I felt myself getting calm and assured. And wonder of wonders — I found myself able to think clearly, while still feeling kilig! With the pressure lifted off, I was able to feel kilig and just enjoy it, and just be thankful for My Special Friend.

Of course, all this takes work and time, and you will feel emotionally exhausted in the end, especially if you are not used to thinking of these things.

But that’s why the next point is important.

I MUST INCLUDE OTHERS IN THIS JOURNEY.

Other people can help me think objectively, and remind me to be honest to myself. This is another very important lesson I learned in the most painful way. And it’s not just them grounding me in reality; it’s also having people to rejoice with, and yes, to feel kilig with.

For me, this includes a small group of close friends, my parents, and some older, wiser people I trust.

So can someone feel kilig and still be objective and think straight? I think yes! But it will take honesty to yourself and others, courage to face your own thoughts and emotions, and humility to let others journey with you.

Go ahead  — feel the kilig! And think objectively. Utak at Puso.

My Heart, Redeemed

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A couple of years ago, I made a declaration: I’m okay being single forever. I still believe that, by the way. I still believe that I have an ultimate, greater purpose than simply getting married.

One broken heart and a few jilted suitors later, I’ve come to learn several things. And since Valentine’s Day is approaching, I’ve decided to reflect on some of the lessons I’ve been taught.

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I can be Secure in my Singleness and Still long for Marriage

When I decided that I’m okay being single forever, the most common response I got from people in my community was, “So you don’t want to get married anymore?”

The question baffled me, because nowhere had I written, nor had I ever said, that I don’t want to get married anymore. What just happened was: whereas in the past I viewed singleness as a completely undesirable option, and that a life of perpetual singleness was an unbearable fate, I now realize that being single forever could be meaningful and joyful and completely wonderful!

It was the most liberating realization – it lifted a great deal of pressure and reoriented my thinking of the future. I celebrated it as a step of growth towards being more secure in my identity and God’s ultimate purpose for me.

But it got me thinking: Do people in my community really think that being okay with singleness means rejecting marriage? Because I’m not. In fact, I do long for it. I do think about, dream about it, wish for it. I am, however, secure in my singleness too, much more than in the past. Security and longing are not mutually exclusive concepts.

My Response to Men Partly Reflects what I Believe About My Own Identity

In the great, emotional turmoil that accompanied and followed my heartbreak, in one of my lowest points, I wallowed in great self-pity and insecurity. I’ll spare you the sordid details, but suffice it to say that he hurt me deeply. I hurt him deeply too, that much I know (and acknowledge) now.

Now, in the present, with my heart more healed, my head more level, and my eyes finally dry, I see now that the way I related and responded to him (and to other men in the past) came out of certain deeply-rooted beliefs about myself. I believed I could never measure up. I believed I was not enough. I believed I was not worthy to be pursued.

Lies, all lies. But I believed them, and I brought them into my relationship with him.

My Community Must be Part of My Love-life Journey

I know it now: one of the reasons why my relationship with him was toxic was because I hadn’t really been completely honest with my accountability group and certain trusted people from my community.

Proud person that I was, I believed the lie that I didn’t have to be transparent with them. It was one of the first things I repented of, and which I vowed never to repeat again. I failed to realize that these people have been put in my life to journey with me.

In the last several years, I desperately prayed for God to give me the grace to learn whatever He was teaching me. I didn’t want to waste all this pain and not gain anything from it. I wanted my heart redeemed. 

God has indeed been faithful in showing me kindness, and showing me things I had never seen before. He used my heartbreak, and other succeeding events, to show how proud, insecure and manipulative my own heart is. Truly, the heart is deceitful above all things.

And He used men to redeem my view of men! (I won’t lie – there was a period when I truly hated disliked men.) Truly, God is close to the broken-hearted, and He has been such a good Father to me.

As I grow and reflect in my identity in God, my prayer and desire is to image God in the way I relate to men and women around me.

What have YOU learned in your relationships?