Sunday, January 31, 2010

Robert the Puppet

Our good friend and one of my most favorite people in the world, JB Dela Cruz, invited us to an evening of illusion and magic.  JB happens to be a really fantastic magician!

The show was called World of Wonders II featuring The Illusive.


















The group that he belongs to is called The Illusive.  One of the magicians in that group asked Robert to volunteer in one of his acts.

If you have been to a lot of children's parties, you have probably seen this act.  It is just funnier to me because this time my husband is the "victim" of this really funny joke.



Too funny!

By the way, if you are interested in hiring JB as a magician in a future party or event, please send me a private message and I will connect you to him.  He is really good!  You can also become a fan of The Illusive Group of Magicians on Facebook.  Just click here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

My 34th Birthday Wish List

It is exactly one month until my 34th birthday! I have made a little tradition out of it by posting a wish list on this blog :-)

A grilled, medium rib eye steak


iTunes gift cards


MAC Studio Sculpt SPF 15 Foundation in NC40



Black, low Chuck Taylor All Star (Size 5)



Tickets to RENT the Musical



An ice cream cake

Photo Credit: http://philregalo.com/


Non-stick frying pan



Golden Spoon frozen yogurt in Cake Batter with Chocolate Truffles


New set of utensils


White computer speakers

Photo Credit: http://www.amazon.com/


The Nest Home Design Handbook



NKOTB Coming Home DVD set



Now for the things that really matter, I wish:
1)  To know God more in ways I have never known before
2) My husband to walk into open doors as he slowly builds his sports academy
3) Health and happiness for my husband, my parents and my sister
4) Opportunities to travel. A trip to the beach, a getaway in the mountains, and to visit family in the US.
5) To start a family
6) A new home to move into
7) Pay off our car and credit card
8) To spend more quality time with my closest friends
9) A short-term missions trip
10) An increase in income so we can help more missionaries


At the end of the day, if I didn't get anything that I wished for, I am truly content with what He has given me!




Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Bob

I am now ready for the next phase of my hair style!  Growing it now into a bob which I hope will turn into this:



What do you think?

Cabbage and Bacon Soup

This hearty soup is perfect on those dinner nights when you simply want something light and warm in your tummy.  A lot of cutting and chopping during food preparation but cooking it is super easy!




CABBAGE AND BACON SOUP
6 bacon slices, cut into 1-inch long pieces
1 large onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, diced into ½-inch pieces
2 garlic cloves
1 medium head cabbage (2 pounds), cored and sliced into ½-inch-wide strips
1 quart reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place the bacon in a large saucepan and cook over medium heat until crisp, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain. Pour out all but 2 tablespoons of fat from the pot and return the pot to the heat.

Add the onion and carrots and cook, stirring often, until the onion is golden, or about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the cabbage. Add the broth, 2 cups water, and the thyme, and bring to a boil over high heat.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and cover the pot, leaving the lid slightly ajar. Simmer until the cabbage is very tender, about 45 minutes. During the last 5 minutes, stir in the bacon. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot.

Note: You may also add cooked ground beef to the soup to make it more chunky!

Recipe from: Yahoo! Inc.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Day 21: The Gratitude Challenge

As this challenge concludes today, I would like to list down 21 things that I am grateful for.  Things that did not get its well-deserved spotlight in the duration of the challenge.

1)  A nice, cozy, apartment that we love going home to




2)  My Dell 1525 Inspiron laptop that has been serving me oh so well




3)  Our good and kind landlady

4)  Daily opportunities to learn how to cook




5)  All my clothes, shoes and purses!

6)  Knowing who my true friends are and I am keeping them for life!

7)  Working from home full-time

8)  Our car with a new engine

9)  Travelling with my husband to many places




10)  All the books I get to read everyday




11)  The ability to make my own choices

12)  For all the dreams that God puts in my heart

13)  All the laughter I experience everyday.  It comes with the territory of marrying a funny husband!

14)  Technology and instant communication

15)  Being able to sleep well every night

16)  For those rare moments that a friend calls, checks how I am doing and wants to spend time with me

17)  That I have healthy, thick, easy-to-manage hair

18)  That I am unique and special in God's eyes

19)  That I am not spoiled but has been taught about responsibility and consequences early on

20)  For the person that I am today

21)  That I am alive, well, and healthy

Saving Cicadas by Nicole Seitz

When I received Nicole Seitz's book "Saving Cicadas" in the mail, I was excited to start reading it because it is my very first attempt to take on Christian fiction.  Not only that, it is my first fiction in over two years!  I felt that it would be nice for a change to escape into a world that is far from the reality of my own (which non-fiction books always remind me of).




There are a some of things I liked about the book.

1) It has a strong pro-life message.  I loved the way Seitz tackled this matter with a lot of conviction.

2) I have a weakness for family dramas. That is why I have been faithfully watching the TV show Brothers & Sisters for four straight seasons. Reading through this book isn't any different. I loved how the story unfolds through the voice of Janie (the granddaughter) and Mona (the grandmother).  There was enough suspense to make me want to read in a faster pace than I am usually used to.  I brought the book with me wherever I went because I had high anticipation of what was going to happen.

3) The book truly promotes Christian family values.  Always a great thing for me!


There are also a couple of things I didn't get about the book.

1) Although I understand why the author portrayed ghosts and angels that aren't Biblically faithful, I wasn't feeling it either.

2) The biggest secret I have been waiting for to unfold lived up to the suspense.  But the more I thought about it, the more inconsistent it felt to me.


Thank you to BookSneeze.com for allowing me to review "Saving Cicadas."  Even though some parts disappointed me, the book was entertaining overall.  This makes me look forward reading more Christian fiction in the near future.

Day 20: The Gratitude Challenge

Today, it just hit me that I am almost done with this challenge! I loved opening my eyes again and see that my life is surrounded with blessings that need to be appreciated on a daily basis.


Photo Credit: Marj Valiente

I did not wrap up this challenge without mentioning the one person I am truly grateful to have in my life: my husband Robert.

1) Thank you for being my best friend. You have always been the one true friend I have had ever.

2) Thank you for being an example of character and integrity. I have become a better person because of how I see you live your life.

3) Thank you that we laugh everyday together.

4) Thank you that we have been through so much together (7 years and counting!) and through these experiences, God has used to shape us into who He wants us to become.

5) Thank you for the difficult times, differences, and challenges -- none of these experiences would I ever trade because we were together in all of them.

6) Thank you for staying true and faithful to your commitment to God.

7) Thank you for always believing in me.

8) Thank you for all our travels, celebrations, made-up games, jokes, and conversations.

And most of all, I thank our heavenly Father for the enduring and patient love He has given us in each day that goes by.

I love you Robert!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Day 19: The Gratitude Challenge

As you probably can imagine, I ask God a lot of questions during my prayer time. These questions have nothing to do with doubting who He is but more to do with asking Him if my desires are aligned with what He wants for me.

Personally, I do not want to pursue things that aren't aligned with His will anymore. It's just a waste of energy and time for me.

In my many "talks' with the Lord, I have a question that keeps on being brought up. Sometimes, I feel like I heard the answer. But sometimes I feel like I to hang on a bit more and listen more closely.

Then I receive the sweetest, most thoughtful letter in Facebook from Tita Coney -- a woman of such strong faith. The content itself is long but allow me to publish the central message of her letter.

Hi Sam!


How are you? Saw you from afar at the last day of our fast at the Fort 7pm service. As I was looking your way, the Lord impressed something in my heart about you and Rob but I didn't get a chance to talk to you that night.


The Lord is saying to you both...."Is anything too hard for me?" :-)

And the letter ended with...

Nothing is impossible with the Lord! Nothing is too difficult for Him! I seal my prayer with the precious blood of JESUS, our Lord and Savior. Amen!


Have a happy, peaceful, prosperous, victorious 2010!


Lotsa Love,
Coney :-)


I am just completely amazed and so grateful that God spoke through her!  What a blessing to hear those words!

I am also inspired to a whole new level.  Today, I resolve to take on every opportunity that God gives me when He has a message to other people.  What a privilege to be able to bring comfort to someone's soul!

Day 18: The Gratitude Challenge

Today is the 61st birthday of a man I am always grateful for: Ronnie Johnson -- the father of my husband. One of the most wonderful men I know! His heart is unlike any other.

Pops, it is a blessing to me that we are family. Happy Birthday!


Monday, January 18, 2010

Day 17: The Gratitude Challenge

Today, I am grateful that I am safe and sound in my home.

Today, I am grateful that I am in a position to help.

Today, I want to encourage you to pray about sending help to Haiti.  The tragedy that the earthquake caused has pierced my heart and broke it into tiny little pieces. I cannot participate in The Gratitude Challenge without the mention of this disaster and how we can all help.



If you are interested to donate, I highly encourage you to send your financial assistance to organizations that have already mobilized relief efforts. Here is a partial list of trusted organizations.

The Samaritan's Purse
If you have questions or difficulties, or if you want to donate by phone, call 1-800-528-1980. To give by mail, please send donations to: Samaritan's Purse, P.O. Box 3000, Boone, NC 28607-3000.

Compassion International
* $35 helps provide a relief pack filled with enough food and water to sustain a family for one week.
* $70 gift helps care for their needs for two weeks.
* $105 helps provide relief packs filled with enough food and water to sustain two families for two weeks.
* $210 gift helps care for two families’ needs.
* $525 provides relief packs filled with enough food and water to sustain 10 families for two weeks.
* $1,050 gift cares for 10 families’ needs.
* $1,500 helps rebuild a home.
* $2,100 supplies 20 families with the basics for three weeks.

The American Red Cross

NetHope

Save The Children

Care

World Vision

UNICEF


"Hear my prayer, O LORD, listen to my cry for help; be not deaf to my weeping." (Psalm 39:12)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Day 16: The Gratitude Challenge

Since the start of the year 2010, I have been going to the gym regularly. The treadmill has been my favorite place of "me" time. When I am on it, I feel relaxed and rejuvenated.


Photo Credit: http://www.ehow.com/


This particular morning, however, I was bored at the thought of going to the gym for my daily exercise. I didn't want to skip exercise. I just wanted to do something different.

If I were in the United States right now, this wouldn't be a problem. Parks and trails are everywhere. Living in the heart of Metro Manila, however, poses a greater challenge in finding alternative ways of exercising outside of the gym.

Then an idea suddenly came to me! One of my occasional struggles in terms of quiet time is maintaining mental focus during prayer. I have days when I find myself thinking of a lot of other things (mostly to do's) when I try to pray. I thought that maybe doing a prayer walk around the Ortigas Center might be a refreshing time and do wonders for me physically and spiritually.

I immediately got into my sweatpants and running shoes and grabbed my iPod. To make the long story short, I walked from my home to Ortigas and briskly walked around the entire center. I prayed, walked and listened to beautiful songs written for the Lord.

I have no idea how big the Ortigas Center is but I easily accomplished my daily target of 10,000 aerobic steps! Not only that, my sluggish self was invigorated!

I am grateful for this wonderful discovery. I now plan to do a prayer walk/run at once a week!

Day 15: The Gratitude Challenge

The Gratitude Challenge calendar says:

Take the time to focus on yourself. Appreciate and give thanks for your unique personality, skills and talents.


Today's challenge is quite interesting! I usually publish daily blog posts first thing in the morning. It is now 3:19 pm Manila time and I still feel uneasy writing a blog about myself.




Most people say I still do not know how to accept compliments and I personally can't stand being in the spotlight for ANYTHING. I have been gently told that I should graciously accept compliments and statements that show appreciation for who I am. Today is a good exercise for me in this area. I am looking at 15 things! Can I do it?

I am thinking REALLY HARD as I write this so here it is:

1) I am open to all cultures this world has to offer. Until I have visited and immersed myself in a place, I will NEVER say I will never travel to it. A different way of life will always fascinate me, no matter how strange it is.

2) I do not give unsolicited opinion or feel the need to give my two cents in every conversation. I find joy in simply listening and discovering what's inside the heart of the individual. The only time I give advice is when I am being directly asked for it.

3) It is so important to me to think things through and examine situations in every angle possible. I make an informed decision from the smallest to the biggest things. And the biggest source of my decision-making is the Lord's voice.

4) I love finding new and different ways to connect people.  I really believe the world is a much better place if we are all open to engage in one another.

5) When my current mood is less than stellar, I am wise enough to stay home, relax, pray, and read.  And guess what?  My mood picks up every time!

6) When a friend invited me to see her new home and a huge rat crawled over my feet under the dinner table, I graciously pretended like nothing happened in front of other people. I didn't want to embarrass her especially seeing how proud she is of her new place. You have to remember, I am TERRIFIED of rodents. I don't know if this is a good quality, but I really don't want my lack of tact to be the cause of a person's embarrassment.

7) When someone comes to me about a problem, I instinctively know the root cause of it. When I dig deeper and verify, I am always right. Especially when it is a relational issue. I know this is a gift from God that I hope to continue to use with humility.

8) I have no problem taking an unpopular moral stance.  I find it easy not to give in to pressure.  I also find myself not caring that much if people thought I was uncool for standing up for what I believe in.

9) I always finish what I start. Easy, difficult, impossible -- I make sure it gets done!

10) I am never too busy to do a favor for someone. Everyone, for me, is worth it.

11) I place an incredibly high value on close and intimate friendships. I just love it when a relationship has a mutual effort to show love and importance to one another especially in terms of spending time with each other.  That develops an iron-clad loyalty in me that cannot easily be broken.  I am also wise enough to let go of the friendships where I am the only one doing the work to make it work. And I can let go without any hard feelings!

12) I am a careful person. I rarely say or do things I regret.  I consider all options before I lose myself in the course of action.

13) I believe I have a reasonable, healthy view of money and material things.  While I appreciate nice objects or a good salary bonus, I have no problem giving them away if I am prompted by God to give them away.  I have since seen everything I have as His and not mine.  I am especially grateful for this because I was not like at all before.  Only the Holy Spirit can transform selfishness into something good and glorifying of Him!

14) I am always positive about the future and expect the best out of it.  I have not doubted what God will do in my life.  I also see other people in the same way.

15) I have strong beliefs about God's high calling for me in this world.  Knowing this completely directs my steps.  Everything I do is purposeful.  I do not bother myself doing things that aren't aligned with His will for me.  I have full acceptance of my position in this world and how I can work with others in order to bring glory to Him. Everything I do, say, and stand up for is shaped by this belief.


It is now 4:16 pm Manila time.  Writing these things about myself for an hour isn't bad at all!  It was a lot easier than I thought.

I still prefer not to be in the spotlight.  I am really happy when something I have done speaks for itself or if it never gets the attention it deserves.  But I am truly grateful for today's challenge.  I definitely encouraged me to show love upon myself which is always a great, healthy, and necessary thing.

I really would love to hear yours!  I hope you take the time today to write down and show appreciation for yourself.  It does something wonderful for your soul, I promise you.

Please share it in the comments section.  I want to know!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Day 14: The Gratitude Challenge

Involvement in a women's ministry evokes the most fulfilling and sometimes most heartbreaking emotions. When I pray for specific women at specific times, I find myself crying so much on their behalf -- praying that they may have a powerful encounter with the true and living God.



During the week of prayer and fasting, my ministry prayer points generally covered the spiritual growth of each member of the life group I am leading. My heart also ached for three specific women who I know God has been calling to come home and accept Him fully. I love these women so much! Crying out for each of them during the fast was no exception.

I recall a particular moment when discouragement took over me and asked God if I should continue on reaching out to women. I suddenly felt a spiritual attack because I started doubting my capacity to serve them.

When my husband came home in the evening, I related to him the negative thoughts I had that day. That very same moment, I decided to check my Facebook profile and saw the sweetest, most timely message from my beautiful friend Jean:

♥ Can't wait for small group on monday ♥

Robert and I couldn't help but laugh on how clear God's response was!

And then I received a text the following day from another lady:

"Sam, the prayer meeting earlier was so powerful. I just have to share it with you because nobody else in my world will get what I'm saying. Wow, it was so moving. Everybody around me, including myself, just exploded and started praying in the Spirit! It just kept on flowing. Thank you for leading the way to our great Father for me. Now I get it."

I believe God had to assure me one more time to stay passionate in helping women get closer to Him. He has a purpose for me in that area.  I do not know what the future holds for me in terms of ministry but I should just keep believing that He will lead the way. Just like He did in this story!

Thank you God that You respond so clearly!

"The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O LORD, endures forever--do not abandon the works of your hands." (Psalm 138:8)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Day 13: The Gratitude Challenge

The Gratitude Challenge calendar says:

Pick three friends or family members you see regularly. View their actions and gestures through a positive lens, assuming their goodness and witnessing their best intentions.


My husband, Robert.

  • I am grateful how he values my opinions before making a decision -- big or small.
  • I am grateful how he listens and counsels with a heart that's like Jesus.
  • I am grateful how he often puts away his self-interests if it means giving someone a chance to shine. Nothing gives him more pleasure than seeing loved ones succeed.
  • I am grateful on how he sees ALL people not by who they are today but by what God wants them to become.
  • I am grateful how he always finds opportunities to bring people together regardless of culture, race or backgrounds.


My father, Rolando Reyes.

  • I am grateful for his drive for action and productivity.
  • I am grateful that he is always passionate about what he does and does not depend on other people to get motivated.
  • I am grateful that he is both creative/artistic and systematic. It's amazing for me to see how he comes up with original and brilliant ideas and is very knowledgeable in executing them.


My mother, Irene Reyes.

  • I am grateful for her ability to pour out so much love in running a household, tastefully decorating a house and cooking the most delicious meals I have ever tasted.
  • I am grateful for the way she takes on large gatherings of family or friends and ensuring that everyone is well-fed and happy.
  • I am grateful for her ability to listen and empathize. She is everyone's go-to person when they need someone to vent to or they want sound advice.


I am blessed to be surrounded by these wonderful examples daily. I love them so much!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Day 12: The Gratitude Challenge

The first four days of fasting has brought me to a place of personal devotion that I have never been in before.  I have always felt that my personal prayer times have always been fulfilling. but God brought me to a deeper place that I know I couldn't have gone to if I was distracted by food.

On the fifth day, after a rewarding four days of personal quiet time, I decided to join the corporate prayer meeting in the evening. The evening prayer meeting was about praying for the Philippines -- something that always gets me choked up and really emotional.



I am grateful to have had the opportunity to join fellow believers in collectively praying for our nation.  I would like to share with you the prayer points.  I hope that you are encouraged to pray for the Philippines as well.

1) 2010 Elections
  • Pray for grace and wisdom in the automation process so the elections would be orderly and credible.
  • Pray for the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines, that they may enforce peace and order during the elections.
  • Pray for understanding and discernment among voters in choosing their candidates.
  • Pray for righteous and God-fearing officials to be elected both in the national and local levels.
  • Pray for favor and wisdom for Christian leaders who are running for office.
  • Pray for a peaceful transition of power after the elections and unity among the candidates.

2) Maguindanao Massacre
  • Pray for justice for all the victims of the massacre.
  • Pray for courage and protection for the prosecutors, judge, and everyone else involved in the trial.

3) Body of Christ
  • Pray for unity and healing among the leaders in the body of Christ, in spite of differences in their political views.

4) My Personal Prayer Points for the Philippines
  • Pray that each Filipino citizen will take on a moral and civil responsibility on contributing to the change of this nation.
  • Pray that poverty will never be an excuse to succumb to theft, criminal behavior, prostitution or human trafficking.
  • Pray for all families who suffered severe consequences of typhoon Ondoy.  May this year be filled with hope and healing for them.
  • Pray that more jobs will open for hardworking Filipinos both here and abroad.
  • Pray for all individuals who are in a place of influence (entertainers, athletes, politicians) to passionately influence this generation to shift their worship to Jesus Christ.  May they not be in it only for the financial blessings but also for the responsibility and the privilege behind the blessings.

"For as the soil makes the sprout come up
and a garden causes seeds to grow,
so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise
spring up before all nations."


Isaiah 61:11


Many thanks to: Every Nation Productions for the first three prayer points.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Day 11: The Gratitude Challenge

The Gratitude Challenge calendar says:

Try to see the world through the eyes of a child. Think about the things you take for granted on a daily basis, and then express gratitude for everything down to the basic necessities that sustain your current life.



There are all the obvious little things that we should all be appeciative of, like the air we breath, the shelter over our heads, the clothes that we wear, the food we eat, and the marvels of modern technology (Skype with my in-laws is just amazing to me!), there's the little things that children see that most of us grown-ups have forgotten to see.

I am grateful for these four wonderful examples from children:

1) Running to their parents when they get home from work.

When was the last time I showed excitement to my parents when I saw them?

2) Listening in wonder to a bedtime story or falling asleep to a lullaby.

When was the last time I listened to someone else's story with no judgment?

When was the last time music was more than enough to soothe me from a tired day?

3) A little, inexpensive toy brings so much joy to a child.

Why are expensive tech gadgets always dominant on my wish list?

4) Total dependence on their parents for everything that they need.

Am I in a place of "total dependence" to my Father God in every area of my life?


I thought it was fitting to remind all of us that we could be missing out on living an extraordinary life because of the rush we put ourselves in on a daily basis. Sometimes "playing grown-up" isn't necessarily the best for our souls.

Today, I want to wonder like a child.


Today, I want to admit sinfulness like a child.


Today, I want to trust like a child.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Day 10: The Gratitude Challenge

Those who are very close to me know that I am completely and madly in love with my husband. Nothing brings more pleasure to me than serving him and making sure all his daily needs are met. When he is happy and content at all times, I am joyful.




I am not sure if this is a common feeling among married women to feel this way and this much for their husbands. The reason I am wondering is there is a struggle to this kind of situation. (If you find yourself feeling the same way, please reach out to me because it is so hard to figure these feelings out on my own)

When something or someone deliberately tries to put him down, I feel extremely over-protective of Robert and yes, sometimes angry at the source of my husband's distress.

As I mature in my faith, I am learning to handle most these situations with much more grace. I usually breathe deeply, hold my tongue, turn to prayer and cling to God desperately.

I also do not want to create a situation where people will be tentative on throwing a joke or two at him because it might generate an unpleasant reaction out of me.  Believe it or not, we still love laughing at ourselves!

However, on a few occasions, being in this situation usually gets the best of me. Yes, the enemy has something to do with it and uses it to attack me. But at the end of the day, I take full responsibility when I do not respond to anger in a loving manner.

I can recall a recent situation where I know I could have handled my husband's "bad day" a little more graciously. I unwisely went for my initial reaction: to go hard for my baby and fight for him. (Disclaimer: Robert does NOT approve this kind of reaction in any way)

As things started to make sense and realized I should have reacted with kindness and compassion, I decided to ask for forgiveness from God and from the person I hurt.

Further reading and quiet time led to me to pray for my husband and myself with these points:

1) That he may have a reputation that is untarnished

2) May people always speak highly of him

3) There would never be any reason for bad things to be said of him

4) To trust God enough that He will defend him from his enemies and those who rise up to do him harm. No need to take matters into my own hands.

5) May he never be put to shame


Today, I am thankful for the weaknesses that I couldn't control nor fix on my own strength because it makes me turn to God -- the only source of true strength. I am grateful for the opportunity to forgive and be forgiven.  To be in this situation truly puts me in a place of humility that I know I need to always have in my life.

Day 9: The Gratitude Challenge

One of the best things during a fasting period is my deliberate attempt to minimize social activities. Being around people and food not only makes me feel weaker but it also takes away my ability to be more still and hear from Him.



Today, I am grateful to have been able to spend time with God. An unhurried time of prayer and reading His Word.

Quiet time brought me to Deuteronomy 10:12-13 and I loved His gentle reminders for me:

1) Live in His presence in holy reverence

2) Follow the road He sets out for me

3) Love Him with all my heart

4) Serve Him with everything I have in me

5) Obey His commandments

6) Live a good life. The kind of good life that honors 1 to 5.

"Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name." (Psalm 86:11)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Day 8: The Gratitude Challenge

I am going to be completely honest. Giving up food for seven consecutive days isn't the most exciting thing in the world.



But there is something to look forward to an opportunity to demonstrate humility before my Creator. There is something amazing when we respond to God's love by deliberately setting aside time for fasting and earnestly wanting to be intimate with Him.

As I commit to a seven-day prayer and fasting, I am grateful for the following opportunities:

1) Checking my heart on the nature of my prayer requests to Him.

2) Seeking God's will on every area of my life. And wholeheartedly agreeing with His will to be done. Fasting won't increase my chances for my prayers to be answered in the way that I want to. If I see it that way, I need to go back to number 1.

3) Developing discipline.

4) Strengthening the fruit of self-control.

5) Enjoying my Creator in ways that I never have before!


"When I heard this, I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven." Nehemiah 1:4

I am thankful that I have an opportunity to participate in one the greatest spiritual disciplines that will allow me to hear Him clearer.

I Gotta Feeling...


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Day 7: The Gratitude Challenge

To our friends Ronald Joaqui Tupas and Jana Estrevillo, a kiss was more than just a kiss. They vowed not to lock lips until their wedding day.



They recently got married. Split the ceremony into three parts with three different locations: Boracay, Tagaytay and Manila.

Robert and I were honored to witness the last leg of their three-part ceremony in Manila. This part where they finally get to have their first kiss ever. I loved that Joaqui totally went for it and thoroughly enjoyed his first kiss with his bride!

While I know that not all Christians have the same stand on the saving-your-kiss-until-marriage practice (and I don't necessarily think that couples who don't kiss are better than those who do), I have deep respect for Joaqui and Jana's decision to do so.

I believe with my whole heart that moral purity is not a devious plan to eliminate enjoyment from a Christian’s life, though the enemy of our soul deceptively threatens such a loss. Instead, purity is God’s infinitely wise foundation for true happiness and long-lasting family relationships.

And here is also why we had a kiss-free engagement.

Kissing is an extremely sexual activity. When I haven't given my life to God, purity was something I did not value and did so many things that made me very far from Him.

Therefore in my heart, kissing (plus other extreme displays of affection) needed to be postponed and maintained within the confines of a lifelong commitment of marriage. I think you'd agree. If a person argues that kissing is not sexual in nature, then ask that person if they would allow their fiance or spouse to kiss someone other than themselves.

This doesn't mean, in any way, that Robert and myself are better or more holy than anyone else. Nothing can be farther from the truth. As a couple, we still need a whole lot of work and have to depend on God's grace for the strength of our marriage on a daily basis.

I just wanted to express the heart behind the conviction and why I have a deep appreciation of Joaqui and Jana's first kiss.

Joaqui: I am grateful for shining examples of a man valuing his bride's worth.

Jana: Seeing your father give you away with so much pride was priceless. Thank you for allowing me to witness that.

And most of all, I am so grateful to my Savior for beautiful second chances.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Day 6: The Gratitude Challenge

Have you seen the movie Slumdog Millionaire? I watched that movie while I was in the United States.

In that environment, that world seemed like a million miles away to a lot of people. But in my heart, it just opened my eyes again and saw how real those scenes were in Manila.

This brings me to a story of a beautiful little girl who always knocks on our car window for money when we drive through Julia Vargas Avenue. I cannot disclose her name at this time because I am currently researching on who she works for.

She is my favorite face to see when our car stops on that street. I know life has been hard on her but she is always smiling -- so delighted to be alive.

Since we got back in Manila, I haven't seen her at all and had left me wondering a few times what happened to this precious little girl.

Two nights ago, once again on Julia Vargas -- I saw a little piece of sunshine on a dark, Tuesday night.  It was my favorite little girl!

This time, she was with a blind, old man. I asked her how she has been doing and who is the man walking with her.

She said she really has no idea. Her "boss" just asked them to walk together and what it obviously a ploy to get more sympathy out of the city drivers.

I showed her my tiny clutch and told her that I purposely didn't bring my wallet that evening because I was on my way to two parties. I promised to give her a Christmas gift the next time I see her.

She said it's okay and she wanted to give me a Christmas present instead. She took off the headband made of faux pearls that she was wearing and gave it to me. She wanted me to have it so I will always remember her.



I couldn't help but cry at her loving gesture.  I thank God for opportunities to engage in people daily.  Often times, it is so easy to walk and away and ignore people that we cross paths with.

I am grateful to Him for bringing people into my life that teach me what it's like to truly give and to truly love.  I thank the gentle whisper of the Holy Spirit that urges me to respond even when my initial reaction is to look away.

Day 5: The Gratitude Challenge

Christmas is my favorite holiday of the year. Family, friends, food, parties, presents! What a great season to appreciate blessings of the year and show love for people that mean the world to you. And I am not going to lie, I just love receiving cards and gifts as much as I love giving them!

Yesterday, I started taking down the holiday decorations in our home. As I carefully wrapped each ornament and stored them in my plastic bin, I got a little sentimental for two reasons:

1) Christmas is over. Does that mean all of us will go back to the business of going on about with our lives, be completely consumed by it and let an entire year pass by without showing appreciation for each other? How nice the world would be if it was like Christmas every single day!

2) This is the first holiday season where I did not receive a single Christmas card in the mail. You know, the traditional, stamped one where you find a handwritten greeting inside? Don't get me wrong, I love all other ways and means to say Merry Christmas but it just made me wonder about a modern trend: has technology gone too far and too convenient?

Later in the day, as I tried to go to the grocery store to run a couple of errands, the guard that stays in our building lobby handed me a cream envelope with a stamp from El Paso, Texas. As I opened it, I saw that it was a handwritten Christmas card from our friend Amy!




I am truly grateful and inspired by this woman!  This act of love has revived my desire to just keep on writing short, handwritten notes every chance I get. Not just on Christmas but on every occasion where my heart feels the need to honor a person that has made an impact on my life.  If I truly want live out the "Love Others" part of my life goal this year, I will look for every opportunity to let a person know that he/she is loved and appreciated.

I really believe that the most common cause of heartache in humanity in this day and age is the feeling that they do not matter.  I hope that all of us make an attempt to cure that today.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Day 4: The Gratitude Challenge

The Gratitude Challenge calendar says:

Write a short message of thanks for some of the “negative” things in your life.


It is this time of the year when Robert and myself go for our annual medical and dental check-ups. This is a relatively new practice for us because we did not really grow up in households that immediately go to the doctors for every tiny little thing that goes wrong. Doctors are usually the last resort when there is extreme physical pain.

There is also the fact that my husband is a missionary and I am a freelance consultant for a web company. Which means we do not enjoy medical insurance benefits from our employers.

Last week we had to go through a series of physical tests that we knew we had to go through at this time of the year. While Robert feels that this is a little price to pay for a lifetime of good health, I was a little "shocked" on how we had to wait for 6 hours to get into the doctor's clinic and paid thousands of pesos for doctor's fees and tests.

 Needless to say, I found myself somewhat frustrated on how difficult and expensive it is to get decent health care here in the Philippines. With rent coming up and having to pay off our car, it was an "unwelcome" expense.

After much thought and prayer, God changed my perspective. He reminded me that I was truly wealthy through this beautiful proverb:

Blessed is the one who finds wisdom,
and the one who gets understanding,


for the gain from her is better than gain from silver
and her profit better than gold.


She is more precious than jewels,
and nothing you desire can compare with her.


Long life is in her right hand;
in her left hand are riches and honor.


Her ways are ways of pleasantness,
and all her paths are peace.
—Proverbs 3:13-17


I was affirmed that going out and understanding my health and being completely aware of it is a an act of pure wisdom. Feeling poor over unexpected medical expenses is a faulty perspective.

And that's when I realized that poverty, after all, is merely a state of mind and not a state of finances.



I am grateful my husband works so hard to provide for us and pay for our health care.  I am grateful that we are never in lack.  In times like these (I know a lot of you know what I mean), me and my husband feel "so married" -- the growth, the closeness, the team spirit is priceless.

I am grateful that God gives us opportunities to depend on Him for miracles.  And because I have Him -- I am wealthy beyond financial measure.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Day 3: The Gratitude Challenge

The Gratitude Challenge Calendar says:

Write about something you feel grateful for in your life today.


Today I found myself extremely grateful for three specific things.


FIRST: My Spare SONY Camera

To those who follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you probably know by now that someone accidentally broke my beloved Canon G9 camera.





I found myself so angry (not at the person) but at the thought of paying thousands of pesos to repair the lens and not having photos on Christmas and New Year's.

I am grateful for having a wonderful friend in Maricar Pacheco.  She allowed me to borrow her spare Sony camera so that I may take holiday pictures.


Photo Source: East Coast Photo


SECOND:  Our New EPSON SCANNER

On our trip to the U.S. and my frequent visits to my parents' house in Bulacan, I have collected and gathered a lot of old pictures.  A nice, solid scanner has always been on my wish list.

After my camera broke down and the engine of our car needing replacement, I knew I had to postpone the purchase of a scanner until we recover completely from all these unexpected expenses.

Kris and Malou Atienza (one of my favorite couples in the whole world) came over our home last night and blessed us with a scanner!

I was so happy, grateful and ecstatic at the thought of scanning all these wonderful photos from the past.  What a blessing!


Photo Source:  http://www.netix.ro/


THIRD:  Our Women's Life Group

Tonight was the first women's life group meeting for the year 2010.  We talked about new changes for the new year.

Admittedly, I was a little nervous because a few women were joining for the first time and I wanted them to feel welcome.  I decided to believe that God will make this happen because I knew meeting tonight was not an accident for any of us.

I do lead the group but every time our life group meets I always walk away feeling so blessed by the ladies.  I am so grateful to be surrounded by women of faith!

















Today, I am grateful beyond words for friends.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Day 2: The Gratitude Challenge

The Gratitude Challenge Calendar says:

Use the alphabet as a fun and quick format for making a list of things for which you feel grateful. Share this list with your social network through email, a blog post or a Facebook or MySpace page.

Today I am listing down all the things I am grateful through the alphabet.

A - ATE LISA. Our trusted helper / housekeeper since 2007. She washes and irons our clothes. She does a lot of banking and bills for us. She cleans our bathrooms! Any working wife knows what an incredible blessing that is.

B - BIBLE. My soul depends on it like no other. Reading through the book of Job right now in The Message version.



C - CHRISTMAS. My all-time favorite holiday. So thankful for the most recent one.



D - DISCIPLINE. It is defined as "a systematic instruction given to a disciple." If I would like to call myself Christ's disciple, it involves a wholehearted willingness to love and obey Him at all times.  And yes, that requires discipline.  I thank the Lord He loves me so much He disciplines me.

E - E-MAIL. Technology is a blessing! Especially when you use it often to let other people know how much you think of them.



F - FAMILY. My parents and my sister. And the new ones God blessed me with: Pops, Mama, Eddie/Nikki, Malaika/Chris and the kids. Plus all the FRIENDS who have treated me and Robert like family.

G - GOD. I am nothing without Him. Google and Gummi Bears too. My work is so much easier with it!

H - HAPPINESS. "Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude." Denis Waitley.



I - ICE CREAM. Cakes and cookies do not stand a chance to this favorite dessert of mine.



J - JESUS. I cannot imagine not following Someone who willingly died for me so that I may have life. I want to be like Him all the days of my life.

K - KISSES. I get these daily from my husband!

L - LIFE, LOVE and LOYALTY. My life was paid at a price, which is why I continue to live knowing my true value in His eyes. My simple life mission: Love God and Love Others. And I mean really loving God and really loving others (even the ones who test my patience!). People who know me really well know that I stay purposely connected to people friends who have shown loyalty all over the years.

M - MARRIAGE.  One of the best things that has happened to me in the past decade.  Marrying someone who truly loves God (and lives life like he does) really make a huge difference.



N - NO. I appreciate this word now more than ever. In my attempt to adhere to the order of my priorities (God, Robert, myself, family, work, ministry) -- I am now able to say no to things that will bring chaos to the what I value.

O - OATMEAL.  The breakfast of champions!  Love mine with maple syrup and walnuts.



P - PAIN. I have extremely low tolerance for physical pain and yet a high one for emotional ones. Believe it or not, I am grateful for painful moments in the past. Imagine how my life would continue to be independent of God if I always had pain-free moments.

R - ROBERT. The source of my joy here on earth.



S - SABBATH. Setting aside 1 day of rest each week is The Best Idea Ever.

T - TELECOMMUTING. Probably one of the biggest blessings I have received in 2009. Started a full-time work-from-home arrangement. Which means I can work at a coffee shop on days that staying home just doesn't cut it. Or maybe even by the beach.

U - URL. One of the Christmas gifts I got from Robert is my very own URL. http://www.happysammy.com is coming soon!



V - VACATIONS. Most recent ones were Anilao and Singapore! Looking forward to new ones in 2010. Coming up in a couple months: Boracay!

W - WATER. Still, and will always be my favorite drink. Ice cold. Plain and simple.




X - X meaning the Roman equivalent of 10.  There are very few words in the English language that starts with X and most of them I do not know the meaning of.  What am I thankful for?  These past ten years.  Here is a quick recap of the last ten years for me.  Met Robert.  He became my best friend.  Gave my life to Jesus. Became engaged.  Married my best friend.  God has been so good and faithful!

Y - YEAR 2010. I am always grateful for a God who gives new beginnings.

Z - ZEAL FOR THE LORD.  I always want to be in a state of passionate pursuit of Him.  I am thankful for everyday opportunities to practice this. "Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation." (1 Peter 2:2)