Wednesday, April 27, 2011

New Lease on Life

When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.
Proverbs 11:2

Last Sunday was extra special because not only was it Easter but it was also a day when we joined another family on a trip to Bua Tong Waterfalls in Sri Phum. Chiang Mai and its neighboring districts have many waterfalls but Bua Tong is my favorite. What makes it unique is how we’re able to climb up and down the falls easily. The spring water is rich in calcium carbonate which deposits on the stream bed and then calcifies to lime stone. The result is a natural water park. It’s refreshing to just sit and chill as the water cascades around you, or to adroitly clamber it up or down. Some parts of the falls are quite steep and challenging. Other parts are exposed to the sunlight so moss and algae become part of the stream bed. My story revolves around the part where the moss and algae are.

When we got to the place, I noticed that our group already claimed a picnic spot so I deposited my stuff and soon Ethan and I headed out towards the falls. The sign says the 3rd part of it is about 250 meters below. We set out to conquer. As we approached the falls, I remembered from past experience that the slipperiest is just the beginning part. I cautioned Ethan to be careful. He wanted to climb down first but I said since he was only 10 and I was 40 years older, I should go first. Before I did, I prayed for him and his safety. In my prayer, I asked for him to be kept safe and not to get hurt. At that point, I obviously thought I was beyond slipping. He actually recommended that we use the stairs to get down but I said “No!”. Stairs were for those who didn’t know how to climb down properly. I obviously believed we didn’t belong in that category!

I gingerly approached the first rock and noticed that for lime stones, none of them looked very white. Almost all of them were green. Green? Swoosh, slipped my right foot as my rear behind quickly followed. I noticed that I was promptly on my back and sliding speedily downhill but none of my body parts seemed to be connecting to the rocks beneath me. I felt like a hovercraft, barely touching the surface it glided on. I planted my right elbow (OUCH #1) which flipped my body over, KERPLUNK! Still, I kept sliding. I felt like a fish but I had no scales! Thankfully, the tree that I initially spied as a stopping point when I planned our descent was soon to my left. I reached out my left hand and thankfully was able to grab it. I soon felt my knee hit a rock (OUCH #2) and realized as I slowed to a stop that my shirt folded under me, exposing my stomach (OUCH #3). All the lower parts of me from the chest down were now gripping the ground, happy to have found contact. Yes, terra firma, “The less firma, the more terra (terror)” as our pastor would often joke.

I hastily pulled my shirt down to hide my belly and called out to Ethan to start his descent. He was very worried and asked if I was all right. As I felt my throbbing elbow and knee, I told him I was hurting but was okay. I also swallowed my pride and humiliation. When he got to me, I asked him to pray for my safety. I realized even more that I really cannot do anything without God. How proud I was, but I was glad to be humbled.

I actually feel as I write this that just as Jesus rose from the dead that day, I rose from mine. I seriously could easily have been killed. At the very least, had I not been graciously saved, I would have come out of that with several broken bones. Grace is that I’m alive, healthy, and writing this with not much pain left in my body. I have a new lease in my life. May I live to glorify Him well.

Nothing as exciting as that happened for the rest of our day. On our next climb down, Ethan and I used the stairs. =) On my last solo descent, I took the same route but being much wiser, stepped on the sides where there was hardly any water. Thank you, Lord, for wisdom and lessons learned.

I’ll end with two statements from Ethan which really tickled my heart. We did a role reversal as he made sure mom was safe as we continued our climb down. He said many reassuring words but the ones that stood out were: “You’re doing good Mom, you’ve got a lot of energy for a 49 year old!” At another time, he said, “Be careful, believe in your feet!” Sometimes, I wonder about that kid. He is such a blessing. =)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Boys on the Hill

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders;
Make the most of every opportunity
Colossians 4:4

I wish I could say that I was purposeful in what I did that perfect Sunday afternoon while in Binangonan, Rizal, Philippines last week. In light of what the verse says, it would be great if I could say I was intentional in my actions. NOT SO. Our walk up that hill was pretty random. Our host suggested it while she swam so Eng, Ethan, and I, slowly strolled up the road. The house we were in had a magnificent panoramic view of the countryside already but we were told the view was even better from the top so off we went. On the way up, I noticed a group of boys squatting animatedly on the sidewalk. Since I wasn’t from there, I thought it odd that they were there but I tried not to think much about what they were doing. It did pique my curiosity. What WERE they doing? I allowed my eyes to look at theirs and wondered if they’d make eye contact. They did! They were a friendly bunch of seven boys who looked like they were just enjoying their hanging out time.

I felt around my pockets to see if there was anything I could bless them with. Nothing, my pockets were empty. I picked a bag of Peanut Butter M&Ms on my way out the door so it was all I had on me. It’s a type of M&M I haven’t tried so I popped one in my mouth. Mmm, it was good. Dare I offer it to them? I surprised myself when I heard my voice say, “Would you like some M&Ms?” in Filipino. Almost all the heads nodded vigorously so I proceeded to put 3 pieces of the round chocolate on each outstretched hand. I got a little nervous that not everyone would get 3 pieces but I got to the last hand with two pieces still left in the bag. Whew, I gladly ate those and smiled at them when they thanked me as I hurriedly followed Eng and Ethan up the hill.

The view was lovely and the wind refreshing so we took pictures. We were in such a beautiful spot. Save for two other ladies and the seven boys who were now halfway down the hill, we were on our own. It was a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

A short while later, we turned around to head back to the house we were at. It was then that I saw the seven boys heading towards our direction. Home to them was the opposite way. Eng and Ethan walked ahead as they heard me address the young ones. I asked them their names, ages (between 10 and 12 – like my sons’ ages), and what they wanted to be when they grew up. I also asked if they knew the God who wanted to bless them with M&Ms that day. =) They told me that someone would sometimes go to their neighborhood and tell them Bible stories. Soon we were talking about why Jesus died on the cross and how when Peter kept looking at him during a storm, he was able to do the impossible and walked on water. As soon as Peter looked at the waves around him, he sank. I then said that at some point in their lives, they will experience hardships but if they keep looking to Jesus and not to their situations, they would do the impossible too. Their faces lit up as I told them not to forget to talk to others about God just like we were doing. I said God would be faithful to them and answer our prayers that day. It was their job not to forget Him and His goodness.

After our prayers, we all felt joy in our hearts. I kissed and hugged them goodbye. They kept thanking me and as they disappeared at the crest of the hill even yelled “I love you!” They knew it and I knew it, God touched all of us that day. We probably won’t ever see one another again on earth, we didn’t exchange numbers, but I know that someday we’ll revisit in heaven and talk about the rest of their lives and our time on top of the hill.

If that could happen to me and I didn’t even plan it, how much more exciting and wonderful would those times be when we make the most of every opportunity. God would never cease to fascinate us if we allow Him to. Would you try?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Land of Our Births

Actually, only Ethan and I were born in the Philippines. When we visited there (April 6-14) during our Spring break, it was the first time for Ethan to be back since we left it in 2002. [We worked in Davao City from 1998 to 2002.] Since he was only a year and a half then, he had no memory of it. This time around, everything was new and exciting for him and he loved it. He raved about “Toy Kingdom”, (a toy store) and the bookstores that had the books he wanted. He made friends with my childhood friend’s children and didn’t want to leave when we did. Before we left, he’s already pleading to visit there again. God willing, someday, we will. I would love for that to happen.

It’s so great to be in a place where I could understand those around me. Also, we could end up speaking many languages but nothing ever beats speaking the mother tongue. =) It was good to see familiar places. Yet I say that with sadness because as I looked around the city I grew up in, it’s no longer the city I knew. It’s familiar but NOT. I was more confused than not. Having left in 1979 with just a few short visits, I’d been away too long, the place became strange to me. I love it but I no longer know it. SIGH. But, it warmed my heart to have seen “Cherry Foodarama” several times. It’s the big grocery store along Shaw Boulevard. My father was then constructing it at the time my mother went into labor with me. Consequently, my second name was influenced by it. However, not wanting to name me after the fruit nor the grocery store, the spelling of my name is “Cherie”. Thank you God, it means ‘dear’ in French. =)

In the nine days we were there, we met up with several friends and shopped a LOT. The shopping was tiring after awhile but it never got tiring to see old and not so old friends. One of them is an artist now and it blessed me to watch her as she painted. God must be so much prouder when He watches us at work.

On the way to Manila, we stayed overnight at Tune Hotel outside Kuala Lumpur. Our Room Number was 333 so I expected to be blessed BIG TIME during our trip. Please read the posting "March 3rd" (March 9th entry) explaining why 3 is such a God number to me. Well, blessed we indeed were! A comfortable apartment was provided for us for a week and my artist friend’s home for the next two days. We ate to our hearts’ delight and were taken to a summer home with a wonderful view of the countryside. Our different hosts spared no expense and treated us grandly. There is no explanation for their kindness, only of a God who wanted to bless us through them. The grace was overwhelming. There was nothing we did to deserve our treatment. We have such a good God who simply desires to bless.

Being there for my friend who needed an operation to remove a tumor behind her eye was special. It warmed my heart so much to literally hold her hand through the process. But most of all, different people committed their lives to God; the person who did my nails, the one who cut my hair, the one who drove us around, and the one who sold me candy.

Mang Federico is a cigarette and candy vendor. He's one of those who made a commitment to live for God. =)

Even the one who wanted us to contribute money to UNICEF at the airport indicated she will commit her life to God. I’m sure the angels rejoiced greatly when the commitments were made, as did Papa God. I could feel it. God is so good to allow us to be part of the whole process. Thank you, Lord! And thank you for the opportunity to travel. We had a great time! =)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Our God is Greater

Our God is greater, our God is stronger,
God, You are higher than any other
Our God is healer, awesome in power, our God, our God.
from the song "Our God" by Chris Tomlin

This incident happened on our way to Manila from Chiang Mai via Kuala Lumpur. We’ve been blessed to be here for this year’s Spring Break.

At Air Asia’s Kuala Lumpur (KL) airport, Ethan lost a part to his little airplane. It happened when we passed the scanning area where all belongings go onto the belt and through the x-ray machine for final inspection before heading to the boarding gates. Unfortunately, Ethan’s backpack had an aerosol deodorant. The guard on duty confiscated it by pulling it out of his backpack’s side pocket. In doing so, the tail part of his 4-piece airplane fell off. Only later when we were having breakfast did I notice his downcast face. Thinking it was because he lost his deodorant [imagine a 10 year old wearing deodorant! =)], I told him that it’s okay because he learned and will never do it again. It was then that he showed me his tailless airplane.

First of all, he got the airplane as a surprise toy from a chocolate candy that we bought in KL. It’s not a candy that’s sold in Thailand so since we were at the airport leaving KL, not something that we could easily buy again even if we wanted to. Furthermore, each treat had a surprise toy which in keeping with its name meant you didn’t know what you’re going to get. Even if we could leave the airport to buy another one, it was impossible to know which candy to buy to get another airplane. As a last resort, I asked Ethan if he wanted us to return to the scanning area to look for the missing tail piece. Even as I said it, I didn’t have much hope of finding it but I thought it’d give Ethan something to do other than despairing.

As we went back to the place, he reflected my doubts as he asked if I thought we’d find it. In response, I loudly sang the highlighted words above. When I finished, I asked him if there was anything impossible with God. He said “no”. As he said that, I deeply wished and prayed that we would find the airplane’s tail. I was realistic that given how much time had passed (close to 45 minutes), how little the piece was (the pictures show the airplane and tail part on Ethan's hand), and that it might not have dropped there in the first place, it WAS impossible to truly find it. Yet, I was hopeful and understanding it wasn’t impossible with God, nothing was.

When we got there, the guard allowed me to search through his container of confiscated goods but he repeated what I already thought before going through the process, “There is nothing there.” Ethan was just watching me at a distance. I wearily stood up and prepared to leave but as I did something caught my eye, what was that?!? On the rollers itself, there was a little, reddish brown, plastic piece that was too big to go in between the rollers but was too small to be noticed by busy guards. Could it be? YES! It was indeed the missing tail piece!

And if our God is for us then who could ever stop us,
And if our God is with us then what could stand against?

I stood exaggeratedly like a cross as I showed the guard that I found what I was looking for. I held the tail piece on my right hand as my left hand displayed the rest of the airplane. Short of dancing, I sang the next verse to the same song (words above) as I turned around to present the parts to a very surprised but elated Ethan. I allowed him to put the parts together as I sang again,

Our God is greater, our God is stronger,
God, You are higher than any other
Our God is healer, awesome in power, our God, our God.

Only later when Ethan said, “Mom, you’re embarrassing me!” did I stop. =)

Praise God! We thank God too that the incident wasn't a prophesy about our airplane ride. The airplane we flew on did well and didn't lose its tail. =) We made it here safe and sound.