Sunday, November 19, 2017

How I Responded To James 1:2-4

"Consider it all JOY, brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing." James 1:2-4

     Consider it all JOY, my brethren, when you encounter various trials... such as the tragedy that struck my family last October 3 when two gun-wielding criminals riding a motorbike fired multiple shots at my eldest brother and his 15 year-old son. It happened so fast in split seconds that both of them died on the spot in broad daylight, right at the driveway of their own home. It was difficult watching the news on national TV and on the internet the following days. It was a double-murder tragedy. I've seen hundreds of news like this before. But this day was different. This was my brother. This was my nephew. 

     You and I both know that a tragedy is a tragedy; it is unthinkable, it cut so deep, the shards of glass felt permanently imbedded in the recesses of your heart. You are shaken to the core. You are at your wit's end trying to process what was unthinkable; bad things happen to good people? Such as my own brother who have lived a simple and decent life of service to his constituents. He served the people of Puerto Galera for over two decades as town councilor. He was billed by his colleagues as a "brilliant fiscalizer", a force to reckon with in the konseho, a great influencer, his wisdom sought after. He did not take what wasn't his. My nephew was a kind-hearted young man, full of talents and dreams. I loved him like my own son. He was best buddies with my own two children. They enjoyed playing good music together and with their other cousins, they formed their own band called Pins and Needles; "Pins" is short for pinsan (cousin), while "needles" represent their titos (uncles) and titas (aunts) who are doctors and nurses. They are the ones who are next in line, so to speak. If this happened to us, it could happen to anyone else, too.

     You may have experienced the same shattering situation in your own life before or perhaps even worse than this, only God knows, or you may still be in the middle of a different form of trial today. They come in different shapes and sizes. Go ahead. Feel free to fill in the spaces below.  What's your kind of trial/s today?
  •              _______________________________________________________________
  •              _______________________________________________________________
  •              _______________________________________________________________
     Please remember that there are no wrong answers if you tried to fill in the blanks mentally. They are all legitimate trials, God-wise, because everything about me, about you, is important to Him. And I am not supposed to feel ashamed to expose my weaknesses to an All-knowing God, because when I'm honest with my feelings, when I'm transparent, helpless in the face of adversity, when I choose to put Him where He should be in my life, to be at the CENTER of my orbit, then I give Him honor. And to honor Him is the purpose for why I'm even here in the first place. He is the Only Wise God, Who without a doubt is the One in control of my life. 

     It's my bread of the day. It's too chunky for my baby-self to ingest. I like breaking it down into chewable pieces. Knowing that the testing of your faith produces enduranceunderscoring the four big words; KNOWING, TESTING, FAITH, ENDURANCE, they overshadow words like death, sickness, cancer, bankruptcy, divorce, rape, murder, the unthinkable!

     KNOWING is realizing and accepting the fact that trials will always be present here on earth, that troubles are a grim reality, troubles will come, as my daughter reminded me, 'yes, Mom, life is a bed of roses, because the truth is, roses have thorns.' I can't agree with her more. I have to make peace with that; I don't live in a perfect world but I live in a perfectly broken world, where God is still in control and always will be. God is King, He is on the throne and always will be.

     TESTING is yet again synonymous with fun words like trials, adversities, troubles, they are all necessary elements for growth and maturity. For this process to take place, come to think of it, there will be breaking and stretching and lifting and shifting, fun words. But my default is to trust in my own understanding, to be self-sufficient, and independent of help. Only to find myself later at the end of the rope, helpless and marred to the bone. Apart from Him I can't accomplish anything. It is literally something out-of-this-world because it is only made possible through God's divine enablement. I may not be always aware of His presence, but it is Him Who makes everything possible for me.  What a privilege to be stuck right in the middle of this  molding process! As defined in Hebrews 11:1, faith is being sure of what I am hoping for, being certain of the things I cannot see, it is a God-thing. Even the ability to trust in Him comes from Him. He provides by giving me assurance from His scriptures. His scriptures give life as it transforms my limited thought processes from non-believing to believing.  No matter how unthinkable a tragedy may hit  me, by faith, I have my hope in Him Who had everything planned out for me. I will reap the harvest of endurance.

     ENDURANCE plays a significant part in order for me to finish strong in fulfilling my God-given purpose in life. There may be times when my purpose looked bleak for the long haul. And again, my daughter described it well one morning after we buried our loved ones. 'It felt like we're in a snow globe, Mom, we were shaken deep down and you can't see through. But no matter how shaken we have been, things will eventually settle and we will see clearly. Everything will make sense someday why God allows bad things happen to good people.'  I must let endurance have its perfect result in me. It is a process. It is time-bound. I will keep pressing forward because that is what endurance is all about, when the going gets tough, the tough gets going; and it gets better and better each day as the Lord Himself provides the strength to endure. 

     It is amazing to think that as I learn to appreciate every event that comes my way, both good and bad, I become more like Him! What a privilege, what a way to become like Him when I experience suffering! No wonder there is such a place called Via Dolorosa, Latin for Way of Suffering just as Jesus did on the cross more than two thousand years ago, this was the path that He took, how He suffered to the point of death on the cross of Calvary because of His love for me. He showed me how to become like Him. Be like Him. Too much to comprehend, because when I say "I love You, Lord" that means I will follow Him, I become a follower, I become like Him, and His way is the way of suffering. It is through suffering that my own heart is transformed to be like HIM. What a privilege to be like Him when I experience suffering! Meanwhile, because of His loving-kindness, He provides a way for me to be transformed to be more like Him. He imparts His own character in me as I learn to trust HIM for everything through the power of the Holy Spirit.

     I remain faithful and hopeful, and joyfully ENDURE slash PERSEVERE. Let perseverance finish its work is to be on the same page with God as I let Him strengthen me in my weakness because when I stay put and let God be God, I am transformed from a Me-centered person to a God-centered person. I become more and more like Him each day so that I may be mature and complete not lacking anything.

Note: All photos from Tabinay Beach were taken by Bethany A. De Chavez๐Ÿ˜ƒ

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Let's Talk About The Laing

(Note:Pls. keep scrolling to the end to watch  a fun video clip of our laing preps.)

     Trying to frame a perfect view for a windy-rainy morning here on this side of the planet. It's a perfect day to cook a family favorite ulam which is none other than the  delectable laing. And because I hail from the province of Oriental Mindoro, I also call it pinangat or pangat for short. The main ingredient of this well-loved Filipino dish is the lowly dahon ng gabi that propagates in your swampy backyard or in your neighborhood's unkempt vacant lot. If you have a friendly neighbor — reword, if you are friends with your neighbor that grows a gabi patch, you can score it for free. The same situation applies to your malunggay and dahon ng saging cooking needs. 

     Gabi, or taro in English, is primarily a starchy root vegetable that has huge green leaves and tuberous stalks. It is loaded with essential nutrients and vitamins B, C, and E, iron, calcium, phospohorous; it is low in sodium, low in saturated fat, low in cholesterol but rich in dietary fibers. The list goes on and on. It also has a long list of medicinal uses but that is for another day. 

     It is the perfect ulam to warm the cold and rainy season as the kakang gata and the little dynamites of green siling haba, red hot chillies, and diced ginger are added to complete the laing DNA. Crunchy liempo and dilis are also added to the ensemble of laing ingredients which made it filling and comforting at the same time especially when you eat it with steaming rice. I call it a marriage made in heaven. 

     The big schools just culminated their celebration of Nutrition Month of July last week. And for the month of August it is the Buwan ng Wika. Tiny schools like ours, which we fondly call The De Chavez Family Homeschool (established in 2005 with two enrolees to wit, one 5th grader and one senior high on the 11th grade), we try making it big by cooking a large batch of laing which is enough to feed an entire village๐Ÿ˜‰  We will store the batch in quart-sized ziplocs and stick them in the freezer to preserve the flavors of freshly cooked laing. Then we will just thaw and heat a portion in the microwave anytime our cravings kick in. Mas masarap pag nabahaw ang laing. Is this Filipino enough? 

     But let me warn you that this green-leafy Pinoy dish is not for the impatient and fast-food oriented brood of foodies. Timing plays a crucial role in achieving the perfect texture and luster of the laing. It is a labor of love as Tita Bebs describes it. You have to keep stirring it every so often for at least an hour, eye-balling it to avoid any hint of burning while the kakang gata cooks it through. Although it is such a simple recipe, patience has been put to good use here in order to achieve a certain laing luster. According to Tita Bebs, that was what she was looking for, kailangan may kaunting kislap. I can not argue with her in terms of why her version of  the laing is one on the pasty consistency side. She is a true-blue Romblomanon but have lived in Occidental Mindoro for the most part of her life. Two provinces in Southern Luzon which are both rich in agricultural resources like coconuts and of course chillies. So, she has my full trust on this laing recipe and among many other things. 

The biko with latik for dessert is perfect with coffee or tea. Back in the days when it was time to eat and we had to call everyone to the family table, we hollered  "hayin na!!! or on some days "dulog na kayo dine!!!"...Is this Filipino enough?๐Ÿ˜‰ 


(Video Note: The small blue pot to the left is boiling kapeng barako, our natural kitchen deodorizer and you  would know what I'm talking about if you liked frying crunchy dilis on rainy days. The aroma of kapeng barako neutralizes the fishy odor that would otherwise stick to your kitchen walls. And of course, fume hoods are too noisy and they are just there for show. )

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Ocean

A fishbowl photo from 2009.

Bethany and Noah, seven and one year-old respectively, year 2007.  

Year 2007, when I was "21" and Noah was one year-old. Ha!

Happy birthday, Noah Bear๐Ÿ˜

Last year, on the same month of July, our family went to a dinosaur museum in Moscow to celebrate our Noah's 10th birthday.  It was a dream come true for him, a decade-long wait had been over. How time flies around here and now he turns 21 11!  He is our boy from the wild and below is a poem to prove it just in case you can't tell. He's into poems lately. And I guess too much rain in the Philippines lately has been making him write poems to curtail the boredom that's starting to seep in.

The deep, deep ocean
Dark and blue
Is teeming with life
You never knew

Underneath this world
You will hear 
The call of a Whale
That is near

Its scars, visible
From the fight with a Squid
And it is gone
In its stomach, it is hid

Millions of plankton
Lurking around
Is one of the most beautiful things
You have ever found

As you ascend you see a fin
A Shark! Its face, a dreadful grin
As you swim away, you see a fleet
This made the hungry Shark, feel beat

As you go back to shore, you see an Urchin
"Well, why is it here lurkin'?"
As you avoid its sharp spikes,
You go back home, on your trike

As you enter the house so dim is the ocean
And then you wake up, eyes wide open
"It was just a dream," you start to say
Then you decided to go to the sea and play

It may be a dream, but it will be real
You will see, you will hear,
You will touch, you will feel
And then in the window, you peer

At a fleet far away
And then you have a feeling, they are astray
Then you get into a swimsuit, to go tell the men,
They are not lost, in The Ocean
A Poem by Noah

"My inspirations for this poem were my imagination and my first open-sea diving experience in Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro. My other inspirations are those readings I've had about sperm whales, squids, I mean giant squids, and about sharks. I also imagined about robotic submarines that are remote-controlled by scientists. I was also inspired by the rich merchant character who had a fleet in the book "Dick Whittington and His Cat" by Marcia Brown. And last but not least, my inspiration was having lived in a house on an uninhabited island. It was just my imagination!" ~Noah

Photo Credit: My older sister, Ate Imelda's rendition of The Ocean. 

Left-right: Ate Imelda, Bethany, Joanna (my niece), and Noah doing the dab gesture. Can you see "The Ocean" behind them?

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