Sharing my faith and my life one day at a time.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Our Holiday Card (2010)

Merry & Bright Holiday
Make a statement with custom holiday cards at Shutterfly.
View the entire collection of cards.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Enjoy the Harvest/Halloween Weekend!

The highlight of the fall season is the celebration of Halloween. I never really knew what this holiday meant because I grew up in a country where there was a lot more emphasis on November 1st, called All Saints Day -- a time to honor loved ones who have passed away.

Today, living in a country where Halloween is the most profitable holiday of all time, I finally discovered the Celtic roots of this day and how it does not have any profound significance of the story of Jesus Christ. More than that, a lot of the activities associated with it are not exactly aligned what our faith stands for.

Here are a couple of Bible verses that give everyone understandable reasons to question the nature this holiday:

"We are commanded not to become involved with the unfruitful works of darkness." (Ephesians 5:11)

The apostle Paul tells us: "But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils" (1 Corinthians 10:20).

Now the question is, what are we going to do this weekend?
(Disclaimer: Our decision was based on prayer, study of the Word, what we felt God said to us, and several discussions. We do not, by any means, claim to be all-knowing and your conviction might be totally different from ours and we totally respect that.)

  • We will not "celebrate" what Halloween stands for but we will definitely not ignore that it exists.
  • We choose to see this as an opportunity to be "the light that will rise like dawn out of darkness (Isaiah 58:8)" 
  • We will pick out pumpkins and make designs. I choose a Bible-based design like Noah's Ark.
  • We will dress up and love on each child who knocks on our door and asks for candy.
  • We will visit our church's alternative Harvest Party and see more cute kids in costumes!

Are we going to allow our future children participate in trick-or-treat? The most truthful answer I have right now is "I don't know." But I am sure that I will go through the same process with my husband like we always do when making big decisions: pray, read the Bible, be still as we try to hear from God, and seek counsel. We will also see to it that our children will be lovingly educated about "principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this age and spiritual hosts of wickedness (Ephesians 6:12)."

One of the best things about perpetually reading on the life of Jesus is how he remains kind, gracious, honest, and loving even in the most saddening situations. I cannot speak for Him, but my heart melts at the thought of Him walking alive today loving on every child even in the midst of an un-Godly holiday. I just want to be like Him!

I really hope all of you have a beautiful Harvest/Halloween weekend, regardless of what you choose to do. Ultimately, this kind of dialog is between you and God. I encourage you to have that conversation with Him!

I also hope that we all remain respectful of each other. I have, sadly, encountered a lot of self-righteous conduct in terms of this discussion. We can be theologically correct but if it is expressed as if we are more morally superior than others, it defeats the very purpose of being like Christ. I really pray that this is a weekend that we are deliberate in showing a victorious, redeemed, grace-filled life!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ways to Show Appreciation to Your Pastor or Small Group Leader

Yes! It is not yet too late to show your pastor or small group leader how grateful you are for what they do. October is Ministry Appreciation Month -- a great way to honor people who take the time to lead us in our faith in Jesus.

Pastor Steve Murrell of Every Nation
Here are some tangible ways we can show our appreciation for them.

  • Write a heartfelt thank you card. Our spiritual leaders need a lot of encouragement!
  • Give a gift card (restaurant, movies, spa, or coffee shop) to your pastor so that he and his wife can go out on a date.
  • Make a special dish that they can have for dinner. A night of not having to cook is a blessing!
  • Offer to babysit their children.
  • Honor them publicly through a blog post.
  • Gather the members of the church or small group to chip in for a thoughtful, meaningful gift.

And this is the most important thing we can do for all of our spiritual leaders.

Pray for them!

Covering our pastors and small group leaders must always be a priority to every member of the church. We should not overlook this and take it for granted. They need prayers so that their marriages stay healthy, their children are unharmed, their bodies are always in excellent condition, that they are always financially secure, and that any kind of temptation or addiction will never take over their minds.

If we can make a difference in these people's lives, it is constantly interceding from them.

Let us look in Thessalonians 5:12-13:
"And now, friends, we ask you to honor those leaders who work so hard for you, who have been given the responsibility of urging and guiding you along in your obedience. Overwhelm them with appreciation and love" (The Message).

Ministry Appreciation Month

As this beautiful autumn month ends, I wanted to share with you another "holiday" that seems to be overlooked by the very popular Harvest/Halloween festivities. October is a month dedicated to celebrating "Ministry Appreciation Month."

While I always maintain that ministry is a full-time lifestyle for every Bible-believing Christian, there are people in this world who are called to be ministers, missionaries, pastors, and church planters. These people wholeheartedly answer the call of our Father, sometimes risking financial and job security to be a servant to the Church.

I want to use this opportunity to thank specific people who have selflessly invested their lives and their time to build us up as we sought to deepen our relationship with Jesus. They went out of their way to equip us, support us, and most of all, love on us.

Thelma Bowlen
Before I even completely knew what it meant to be forgiven and be saved by grace, it was Thelma who courageously invited me (then a skeptic 28-year-old but genuinely wanted to seek Jesus) to a small group meeting and eventually sat down with me on-on-one to help me build my spiritual foundations.

Manny and Joy Muleta
The very first couple who have willingly mentored us to be better leaders and servants. They have always gone out of their way to include us in many family occasions. Pastor Manny is currently recovering from heart surgery. He has one of the biggest hearts I know so this makes me a little sad. Please include him in your prayers today.

Paolo and Jenn Punzalan
Pastor Paolo and Ate Jenn are our current spiritual leaders in our church in the Philippines. Robert and I love helping them in the evening services in Victory Christian Fellowship in Fort Bonifacio. I think they are doing such a wonderful job! Robert also meets with Pastor Paolo for coffee for personal accountability and discipleship. I love going to biweekly Tuesday brunches with Ate Jenn and a few other married ladies. I enjoy the fellowship, the stories shared and the prayers prayed.

Gary and Laurie Hoyt
Pastors Gary and Laurie Hoyt are the senior leaders of our home church here in Bellevue, Nebraska called Bellevue Christian Center. They are so kind to us and have been always supportive of our missions work in the Philippines.

Charlie and Felicia Burkett
Our time here in the United States gives us the opportunity to prepare ourselves for our calling to minister to young couples in the Philippines. We desire to learn as much as possible by being a part of journey groups for married couples. It is such a delight to learn from Charlie and Felicia. Their testimony is proof that God is nothing short of miraculous in healing marriages. We really enjoy their leadership and the company of other young married couples.

Walter and Melba Hooker
This fall, we joined a second journey group because we just want (and need!) to learn as much as we can on our time here. The Hookers lead a group with couples who are have been in marriage much longer than we have. Therefore, another opportunity to be equipped! They, too, have an amazing testimony.

I am grateful for the lives of these people. I will never forget how they have lovingly taught me what Jesus Christ did for me on the cross. I am glad that ministry is their way of life. I am humbled by their obedience to God's instruction.

For Ministry Appreciation Month, who are you grateful for helping you in your spiritual journey? 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Happy 60th Birthday Mommy!

Super Mom
Mom, you're a wonderful mother,
So gentle, yet so strong.
The many ways you show you care
Always make me feel I belong.
You're patient when I'm foolish;
You give guidance when I ask;
It seems you can do most anything;
You're the master of every task.
You're a dependable source of comfort;
You're my cushion when I fall.
You help in times of trouble;
You support me whenever I call.
I love you more than you know;
You have my total respect.
If I had my choice of mothers,
You'd be the one I'd select!
By Joanna Fuchs

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Elmwood Park in the Fall

It's that time of the year when we start preparing for the holiday season. We have pictures taken, determine our holiday budget, set-up our holiday photo cards, update our address book, and list down our holiday gift list.

Fall foliage is gorgeous here in the Midwest and I knew we had to take advantage of the breathtaking trees in red, orange, purple, and green before the first snowfall -- which will probably take place in a couple of weeks.

So grateful to stumble upon Shutter Impact on our local Craigslist. For a really affordable fee, we can get outdoor photos taken and have the CD of all the shots.

It was way cheaper than getting our portraits taken at the regular family photo studio. And surprisingly, cheaper than fees in photo studios in Manila.

(Our last photo studio experience in Papillion, NE was not too pleasant. I loved that we got the pictures we wanted but the staff was less than friendly. And my father-in-law paid much more than what Shutter Impact charges.)

Tyler and Dave of Shutter Impact suggested Elmwood Park by Leavenworth Street in Omaha. They could not have picked a better place for the photos that we wanted! It was just rows and rows of trees that speak "autumn!" I will definitely go back there again for my own little quiet time.

It was such a pleasure working with them. They were very patient and made sure we got all the shots that we wanted. If you are thinking of getting some family photos taken for the holidays, do get in touch with them on their Facebook page. You will love the results, I promise you!

Our fall photos in Elmwood Park (Omaha, NE). Thank you Shutter Impact!

How about you: 
What are the first few things that you do to prepare for the holiday season?

Monday, October 25, 2010

BLUSH Magazine

Just in case you haven't realized it by now, I am going to say this again: I love beauty products (skin care and makeup). I am blessed with a mother and grandmother who loved taking care of themselves and always made sure they walked out consistently well-groomed.

I was really delighted when around the middle of this year, BLUSH Magazine came out with its maiden issue. A magazine devoted exclusively to a lifestyle of beauty -- I know a lot of women like me were saying "Finally!"

KC Concepcion on the cover

For BLUSH's September/October 2010 issue, I had the privilege of contributing to its regular "First Person" section. It was really fun talking about staying beautiful in times of traveling through many cities.

Contributors' page

If you live in Metro Manila or any major city in the Philippines, I would like to invite you to grab BLUSH magazine's latest issue, check out the article I wrote, and discover beauty lessons from the point of view of the experts.

Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Catalyst East 2010: Francis Chan

Easily my favorite speaker on this year's Catalyst Conference! I am so glad that they made this segment available publicly on video.

It will take about 7 minutes of your time but I hope these precious minutes bless you and encourage you to spend time with Jesus today.

Catalyst East 2010: Francis Chan from Catalyst on Vimeo.

Book Review: Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half

When I got this book in the mail (thank you BookSneeze!), I was more excited than the usual because what it is all about is not what I usually review.

While I will always love books on Christian life, theology and even fiction, I can always use a book that will help me become a better homemaker and money manager. Something that's practical and can be easily applied to the very unique household Robert and I are accustomed to.

"Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half" by "America's Cheapest Family" Steve and Anne Economides (yes -- it's really their last name) just does that.

This book is not intimidating. Admittedly, I was concerned that the lessons shared might be unrealistic to my household and the third-world culture that I call my permanent residence.

Each lesson / money-saving tip is placed in one chapter. This means that I can choose to apply one tip and completely ignore the other.

There is no requirement to do all the recommendations in order to make an impact on our budget. Every single tip will do make some changes!

Running a home and staying on top of family finances is a beautiful calling from God. I take this privilege seriously.

While I am not expert at it (I am learning daily and sometimes the hard way!), I am glad that I have access to resources that teach me to grow in my role. This book is one of them! For any family who needs to save more (which is pretty much everyone), I highly recommend getting a copy of this book.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Link Love: October 18, 2010

It's been more than a month since I shared a lot of delicious stuff I have stumbled upon the web! Prepare yourself for a lot of link love today.

Tweeting the Bible One Chapter at a Time by Church Crunch
I started following @biblesummary on Twitter and found it fascinating to see a 140-character summary of each chapter in the Bible. It works much better if your Bible reading plan is synschronized with it!

Tips to Get Fit and Healthy Behind the Desk by fitsugar
I have days when my mobile desk job keeps me sitting down all day. These tips are a great reminder that I need to find ways to stay fit even on sedentary days.

An Interesting Challenge From My Friendly Atheist Friend by
If you are a believer, Anne Jackson's atheist friend (who I believe is a good person) poses a provoking challenge.

Do you have days when your tasks are all on top of each other that you need reminders throughout the day? This website sends you a reminder e-mail at an appointment time to let you know about your deadline. You can also use this service to remind other people on your team and get notified once those tasks are accomplished. Pretty neat!

If you are a blogger and you want to create a coffee table book based on your best / most popular posts, this service is exceptional! One of my upcoming projects at the end of the year. Also makes a great gift for your friend whose blog you love!

Vegetable Salad with Beets and Goat Cheese by Ingredients, Inc.
A delicious late summer salad. If you love your greens, you will like this recipe.

Mama Mia's Maternity Book by Johanna McShan
What a brilliant idea! A photo book that chronicles a woman's pregnancy.

Danny & Annie by StoryCorps
A beautifully presented love story that is guaranteed to make you cry.

RED Letter Words
Faith-inspired art that I want on my future home's wall.

11 Questions We Should Ask About Our Marriage! by Perry Noble
I will never get tired of saying this. Our marriage is stronger by the grace of God and the accountability of other people who love God.

Catalyst East 2010: Recap Video
A great video summary of an extraordinary conference.

Catalyst Photos // LABS #CAT10
Great photos taken of this year's Catalyst East Labs.
A great idea that started as a blog that has since evolved into a full-featured website. It aims to reunite lost cameras (and the photos inside them) to its rightful owners.

The New Way to Find the Best Airfare Deals by
Looks like I have been doing it the ancient way!

Solomon on Social Media by
Excellent article! If the Bible's Solomon were alive today and immersed in social media, what would be his guidelines?

Children's Bible Reading Plan by Head Heart Hand
Are you a parent looking for a guide to start engaging your children in reading the Bible. Here is a free plan that might work for you.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Video Highlight: Catalyst East 2010

Friday, October 15, 2010

Comment! Like! Follow! Reply!

Yes, all of those things are opportunities to encourage! I am about to think out loud on this blog post. Thoughts crossed my mind just right now that I feel needs to be shared and I hope that I can get your thoughts on it.

I just logged in to my Facebook account and carefully scanned through my "Top News" list. By looking through it, I found out that:

  • It's my friend's son's birthday
  • One of my best friends know a former co-worker from way back
  • A couple we know is celebrating their anniversary
  • A friend's daughter won a tennis match
  • A girlfriend is desperate for her infant to take a nap because she needs it too
  • A newly-married couple we know is about to purchase their first car

As I got done scanning and ready to click the "X" button and go on about my business, a gentle realization hit me. As content as I was in knowing what my friends are up to, I could have done the following:

  • Said a "happy birthday" to my friend's son
  • Let me best friend and former co-worker that I am thrilled at how small this world is
  • Congratulated the couple on their anniversary
  • Cheered on my friend's daughter's tennis win
  • Tell my friend that she is doing a great job at motherhood
  • Told our newlywed friends how happy I am about their new car

While all these feelings are true and genuine, it just suddenly bothered me how many times I felt these things and never communicated it to the very people who will actually feel encouraged hearing it. This triggered to ask myself this hard question:

"How many opportunities to encourage someone did I allow to pass?"

The sad part about it is that it only takes a couple of minutes of my time to send a comment, to click "Like", or  type a reply that expresses my joy on these updates. How many blog entries have I read without even bothering to comment how blessed I am by it? Have I become content seeing my timeline on Twitter without even engaging to the people who connect there?

The truth is, we use different forms of social media to let the world know that what we have to say matters. We want someone to validate our thoughts. We desire to make a difference.

Someone told me that there are two kinds of people in this world and you will know it when that person enters the room. He will either say "Here I am!" or "There you are!" When we look at our life online -- are we the former or the latter?

As much as I would like to think that what I have to say will make a difference, wouldn't the way I respond to someone's statement (and making a habit out of it) create a bigger impact?

Just my thoughts! What do you think?

My Favorite iPad Applications

It is no secret that the iPad has made my life much easier as I have stated in a previous blog entry. Today, I am excited to share with you my favorite applications (also known as "Apps"). You will know why an organized nut like me loves this piece of technology so much!

1) Mail
I have different e-mail addresses for different sets of correspondence: personal, business,, online subscriptions/purchases, and ministry. The Mail app connects to all five e-mail servers and I can easily check all unread e-mails in one place but still presented in a compartmentalized manner.

2) Calendar
I have used the calendar on Microsoft Outlook for years and it has served me well. However, I have decided to transfer my date book to the Calendar App because of my more mobile lifestyle. I still have the option of synchronizing it with Outlook although I prefer to use the app as standalone for now -- which works perfectly!

3) To Do
The best to-do list application I have ever used. Trust me, I have used both paper and web-based tools. The tabs and colors are a dream to work with!

4) Notes / iDo Notepad / Chronicle
These applications have taken my frequent note-taking habits to a digital and more organized level. Once again, the keyword is compartmentalized. I use Notes for random ideas, thoughts and information that needs to be filed later. I use iDo Notepad for all sermon and conference notes. Chronicle is a password-protected journal for my private exchanges with God.

5) Bible
I have Bible applications for different translations: The Message, TNIV, NIV, NLT, and ESV. Carrying my Bible has never been easier on my already strained back. I love that I can interact with it by being able to neatly highlight verses and write notes on them. It just looks way cleaner doing it digitally than on paper. (Although I will forever love my torn Women's Devotional Bible in NIV).

6) Twitter
Twitter is my primary tool in socially connecting with my friends on the web. I use it more than any social networking site out there. I have tried different applications such as Tweet Deck, Twitterific, and Tweet Flow. However, nothing compares to the application that Twitter itself made -- the single, linear format that I have grown to love!

7) PDF Reader Pro
This wonderful app keeps all of my PDF documents that I need to go over. I have tons of e-books, articles, and book summaries that I need to proofread for work. I have copies of contracts, resumes, and personal information that I saved in PDF -- just in case an emergency situation requires these documents. I also keep free Bible study resources that I find valuable. I also have workout guides kept in this application -- which is convenient to refer to when I suddenly have some free time.

8) Pandora
Pandora is a personalized Internet radio service that helps me stumble upon new and old songs based on the songs I currently like! It is literally like having my own radio that plays only the songs I want to hear. I keep it on when I am getting ready and I tune in to the "Sleep" radio station when I need white noise when hitting the sack. The only thing that makes me sad is that this service is not available in Manila.

9) ABC Player
How can I not love an app that plays my favorite TV shows: Brothers and Sisters, Grey's Anatomy, Lost, Modern Family, No Ordinary Family, What Would You Do? and 20/20. It plays the all the episodes any time I want as long as I have an Internet connection. No need to download or buy from iTunes. However, like the Pandora, it only plays in the United States.

10) Amazon Kindle
I love to read and I have always to own a Kindle. However, getting an iPad allowed me to enjoy the features of a Kindle without purchasing an additional device. I still have a lot of physical books on my shelf that needs to be read but new purchases have all been done with the Kindle. I have discovered the Kindle versions of books help me save up to 30%. Hurray for instant savings and less book shelf clutter!

11) NewsRack
Blogs have become an important source of information alongside traditional news. I keep up with my favorite blogs through Google Reader. The beauty of NewsRack is that it synchronizes with all my saved feeds on Google Reader and it appears on this application immediately. I can now read these blogs without having to turn on my laptop!

12) Words With Friends
I am not naturally competitive but I do enjoy the thinking process of word games. Being able to do that with friends all over the globe is pretty neat to me! Are you on WWF? Add me (happysammy) and let's start a game!

13) Plants vs. Zombies
Pop Cap develops the best games, don't you think? PvZ is my go-to game for relaxation. Yes, it relaxes me! I jokingly call it the "marriage wrecker" because Robert and I fight over who gets to play it.

If you are on the iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad, what are your favorite applications for productivity and entertainment? I would love to know what they are!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Catalyst East 2010 Conference: Lessons, Observations, and Highlights

Robert and I just got back home here in Omaha, NE after a 2-week road trip. The biggest reason for this travel was because we were blessed with scholarships to a conference we have been wanting to go to: Catalyst East 2010 in Atlanta, GA.


We made several stops to different cities before reaching Georgia but when we finally got there, we were ready to take in the experience and learn from the minds of people who are changing the world for Jesus Christ. I have always heard how great Catalyst is but our time there completely exceeded our already high expectations.

The theme of this year's conference is: TENSION IS GOOD. Perfect for someone like me who cannot stand tension-filled situations and relationships!

Here are some lessons, observations, and highlights from that incredible week.

1) Funny emcees. I really enjoyed the leadership of these funny, gifted people: Reggie Joiner, Lanny Donoho, Ken Coleman, Tripp Crosby, and Tyler Stanton.

2) The Social Cause tent. We love knowing about projects on social responsibility and we can participate on a more active level. I truly believe that being involved in making our world a better place is part of stewardship of the blessings that God has given us. Visiting the tent gave us tons of information on organizations on modern day slavery, human trafficking, microfinance, and clean water.

3) Catalyst Labs. This is an optional series of workshops that take place a day before the conference. In my opinion, it is a day that must not be left out. While it will not minimize the extraordinary experience that takes place during the main sessions, the knowledge we received from Labs allowed God to speak to us in areas we have been asking Him.

4) Andy Stanley. "You have no idea what God wants to accomplish through you, your children, and your grandchildren, but God does, and you are going to want to be there for it!" His new approach on the Bible story of Esau and Jacob leaves me asking the question, "What will I trade for a bowl of stew?"

5) Scott Harrison talks about how God turned his life around and start making clean and safe water available to developing nations. He started a non-profit organization called charity: water.

6) Daniel Pink. "Money is a motivator. We must be fair. Once a person is paid enough, additional money doesn’t add much motivation." Makes me wish Mr. Pink is my employer! His insights on new ways of motivating people challenged me as I do my work in the marketplace.

7) Christine Caine. "Don't confuse empathy with compassion. It's not compassion until you cross the street." My heart got stirred once again on how we all must go out of our way to rescue those who are broken and abused. I believe that our involvement is part of the stewardship of the blessings God has given us.

8) Seth Godin. "Are you doing work people will miss when you’re gone?" Linchpin teachings come to life as he passionately talks about leading movements that people want to follow and stay connected with. He also handed out a book he created especially for Catalyst attendees called "Graceful."

9) Beth Moore. "Eat the thing before you tweet the thing. Digest information before simply passing it on." This statement was a moment of affirmation for me. Before going to the conference, I was determined not to connect to any form of social media during sessions. I wanted to be a focused learner and take in everything that I could before sharing it with my network. I was tempted several times but her message reminded me on how important my decision was to stay offline. I am also looking forward to attending her Women of Faith Conference in November!

10) Francis Chan. "When was the last time you bragged about knowing Jesus?" My favorite session from the entire conference. Oddly enough, the only session I did not take notes from. I was too captivated by his excitement, faith, humility, and genuine love for Jesus. He is moving to India this week not knowing what God has in store for him but simply going out in faith. I have never seen a man so excited about the unknown!

11) Perry Noble. Definitely the funniest speaker at Catalyst. "Some of you are about ready to run from a situation that God reigns over." Amazing insights on 1 Kings 17.

12) Gabe Lyons. "A significant change is going to happen if you recognize that the people who go to your church are already your mission workers." Great thought on taking advantage of an army of missionaries that needs to be mobilized.

13) Craig Groeschel. "You are the most cause driven, mission minded generation in modern history. If you will come under authority and be teachable, you will be the greatest generation of our time." His entire message on generational tension is something every believer must hear.

14) Bishop T.D. Jakes. "Our job as Christian leaders is not to allow anything that happens around us to force us back into our corners." The Bishop's message was strong. He shared that his mother used to bring him to a lot of uncomfortable places like going to see a ballet. She wanted to him to have a wider sense of what the world is like and not be constrained in a "corner."

15) Gayle Haggard. Now I truly understand why she stayed. I also felt the urgency of always praying for our spiritual leaders. As workers in the field, my husband and I benefit by people who cover us in prayer. Blessed by the graciousness of this lady.

16) My Twitterverse coming to life. I think it was pretty neat that most of the people I follow under my Twitter's "World Changers" list was alive, walking, and talking amongst us!

17) Breathtaking opening number. I am still searching for anyone who recorded this on video. Incredible take on Eminem's song "Not Afraid."

18) Randall Wallace. I have always been a fan of Braveheart and I am looking forward to catch Secretariat this week. Moved by his humility and his desire to bring good movies to Hollywood. This man broke down in tears as the entire stadium stood and clapped for the work he is doing.

19) Emphasis on adoption and orphan care. There are 127,000 children waiting for adoption in the U.S. foster care system. I personally do not know the numbers worldwide. But I am grateful that this conference was used to create more awareness about the journey of adoption. Robert and I have been wanting to adopt even when we were single. Now that we are married, we have been waiting for God to lead us to the child who He has planned all this time to be ours (regardless if our biological child comes first or not). We have never been more excited!

20) Bowl cuts and plaid shirts. It seems like men had a "uniform" for this year's Catalyst: plaid shirts and jeans. Tripp and Tyler also sported silly bowl cuts and encouraged guys to get one for a free t-shirt. Too funny!

20) Worship. Always my favorite part of any gathering of believers. I am grateful for Aaron Keyes, Carlos Whittaker, Gungor, and my favorite Kari Jobe (who was beautiful and pure) for their leadership during this conference.

I have notes from most of the sessions that I will be more than happy to share with you! If you attended, it might be a helpful supplement to your existing notes. If you didn't, some of it might not make sense but you will definitely stumble upon insightful statements. If you are interested in looking at my notes, please leave a comment and I will get in touch with you!

Robert and I left the conference so inspired and were left to ask our Father what He wants us to do next. After all, He made a way for us to be able to attend. It makes me wonder how He will use us in the coming days/months/years. I am joyful at the thought of hearing His instruction!

Believing that we will be able to attend Catalyst West 2012! I am also hoping that we get to attend this with our closest friends. What an extraordinary experience!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Book Review: Same Kind of Different as Me

I find myself bringing my mobile office to a nearby Borders whenever the mood strikes me. I can recall quite a few times where I caught a glimpse of the book "Same Kind of Different as Me" on the bookshelves.

It intrigued me because:

1) It is a New York times bestseller.
2) It is a true story.
3) It tells how a homeless African-American man crossed paths with an affluent white couple and changed each others' lives forever.
4) I am pretty sure it will be turned into a movie and I wanted to read it before I see the "Hollywood-ized" version.

I was just having a lunch with a really good friend yesterday and he said something that really captured my heart: "I long for the day where the world has no countries and we all just lived in alignment, in agreement, and in harmony with one another."

If you want to see that extraordinary vision in a specific situation, the story of Ron Hall and Ron & Deborah Moore will certainly give you that. I am a lover of the narrative form of story-telling, which makes this book difficult to put down.

I have been guilty of passing on judgment to other people and deciding that "I have nothing in common with that person. Therefore, I am unable to have a meaningful relationship with him/her."

When I think of the story of Ron (who was born into a family of slaves) and Denver (who grew up privileged); and how a friendship seemed impossible; and yet Deborah believed otherwise -- I knew that I need to constantly battle that mindset and allow God to bring people into my life with any doubt.

I am grateful for that lesson and I consider myself blessed to have gotten the chance to see a story of friendship that is triumphant over race and social status.

My Personal iPad Review

"How do you like it?" is the question I have been asked a whole lot ever since I got the iPad back in April. I decided to do a review until several months down the road so that I can get immersed in its usability and really know what I like and don't like about it.

Let me tell you first why I decided I needed one.

1) My full-time job requires that I create updates in dozens of social media and bookmarking websites all throughout the day. I have gotten accustomed to bringing my laptop with me all the time to keep my tasks going.

However, there are a lot of times where I have already created massive content with my laptop and I don't need a heavy computer to bring with me as I become mobile to spread the word about what I created. My back problems have gotten severe because of a lifestyle of carrying around a heavy work bag.

Remember: I also carry a camera, a notebook and a couple of books with me all the time!

2) I have been looking around since late last year for a solution to my problem. These modern smart phones seemed to be the most popular and available solution except that I was not feeling the thought of integrating my phone with a complex mini-workstation.

I have never been a big mobile phone user nor am I great at texting. Blame it on never having a home phone until I was 19!

Yes folks -- I got through my entire high school life never having to be on a phone with a girlfriend or worse, a boy. The cell phone that I use today is the most basic you can ever see and will probably be like that for a while.

(Note: I laugh at the thought of my future children trying to justify to me why they need a cell phone while they are still in high school)

3) I found something more appealing than an all-in-one power mobile phone. I thought that the newest generation of iPod Touch will meet my needs.

It had access to Wi-Fi and add some more tools that will eliminate me bringing heavy documents and notebooks every day. I made a decision to set aside $100 out of my paycheck every month so that I can buy it.

(Note: I have never been known to drop hundreds of dollars for a huge purchase. I love "earning" my way to get it. Therefore, the process of setting aside money every month brings so much more satisfaction.)

Just in time for Christmas season, I have saved up enough.

As I was about to buy it, I looked at the gadget and put off the purchase. Every time I played with the model unit, I found discomfort in using a tiny touch screen.

I kept on saying to myself, "I wish Apple would make a larger iPod Touch." Then I'll be 100% comfortable buying it.

Until then, I'll hold on to my "normal" way of working. I guess you know what happens next in our story.

Around that same time, a rumor was strong about an Apple "tablet" coming out. I admit that the rumor hardly made me excited because I figured that it was simply going to be a mini-Macbook (sort of like a net book).

However, on January 27, 2010, Steve Jobs answered the longing I kept on saying to myself. He introduced the iPad and what unveiled was indeed a larger version of an iPod Touch!

My dear husband said he will add whatever was needed to my gadget fund so I can finally get my hands on one and start working more efficiently. And finally, I went out and got it.

After a lot of thought, I got the 32GB Wi-Fi only model. Why? 8GB cannot accommodate my latest photos and videos. 64GB was just too large.

It turns out that the size I got is perfect. I get to use about 14GB any given day. If there was a 16GB model, I would have probably gotten that one.

I also decided to pass on the 3G model because I was certain I was not happy with current 3G providers in the Philippines and that I did not want to stay connected to the Internet all the time. I know that this poses real danger to me as I know this might tempt me in being online during those times that I should be spending in prayer and reflection.

6 months later, I still cannot believe how I was able to work without it. I get to check e-mails, edit content, update social networks, collaborate with co-workers, and stay in touch with trends related to my job.

And on top of work benefits, it does bring a lot of entertainment in my down time. I get to watch my favorite TV shows, listen to podcasts, review sermon notes, track my food journal, play my favorite Plants vs. Zombies, and read on the Kindle application.

For iPhone power users, this piece of technology will most probably not serve any more purpose than the mobile phone does. However, if you are like me who is looking specifically for something lightweight with a big, gorgeous screen -- the iPad is truly a blessing!

Is there anything I don't like about it? -- NOTHING! This I promise you. Everyone has given me their 2 cents about waiting for the newer generation iPad with a camera and Face Time (estimated release is January 2011).

The truth is, all of my laptops have webcams and I can remember using it only a couple of times. I did not see the point of waiting for newer technology that I know I will not be using much.

However, if you are a heavy video chat user, you might want to wait until early next year. Until I have a good need for it, I decided that the basic one will meet my needs perfectly.

If you are thinking of getting one, I hope this feedback will give you a better idea on how the iPad will (or not) meet your needs.

Watch out in a future blog post: My favorite iPad apps!
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