Christmas Tidings….

 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope ~ Romans 15:13

There are a lot of ways to celebrate Christmas and so many meanings behind the word. We can go theological or we can go by its secular interpretation. Whichever meaning one chooses to relate to what Christmas is all about, it depends on the individual’s life experiences.

We all came from different backgrounds, different religious practices, education, and cultures. As children, we were even convinced that there is this nice, friendly, old man in a red suit who watches over us throughout the year and rewards us in the end with gifts if we did well. We all transition in life from children to adults and in between we go through different life experiences. Our spirit, mind, and hearts become one ~ we experience fun and laughter, we go through falling in love for the first time to heartbreak, the joy of seeing our child when we first hold them in our arms, the sadness when we see them leave and begin their journey, perhaps the tragedy of losing a loved one and knowing we will never see them again because they have reached their journey. We celebrate so many levels of experience in our lives; birth of a child, graduation, marriage, separation, illnesses, and death.

All these experiences and emotions that we go through (love, loss, joy, excitement, sadness, and so forth) are shared with us because someone who cared so much about us wanted to share His same experiences. To top it all, He even sprinkled the special gift of free will because He trusted that somehow, we will recognize His existence in our life. No matter how people embrace (or avoid) the relevance of our Heavenly Father to the celebration of Christmas, one thing that is clearly defined is that we are all connected as His children ~ we all go through the same life experiences of happiness, excitement, pain, suffering, and loss. Christmas is the time that we are reminded of when our Abba Father gave us the Gift of Hope ~ His son Jesus Christ. Hope is one of the fundamental reasons why we celebrate Christmas. It is with this gift that we can move forward and embrace any obstacles that come our way, knowing that waking up another day makes a difference. Another day, another opportunity to renew our lives in Christ.

I celebrate Christmas because it always gives me the joy of knowing that whatever I went through this year (whether good or bad), I know that hope is waiting for me next year. I know that my Lord and my God is always there to carry me through.

Thus, when you sit with your families and friends on the eve of Christmas and look at everyone’s smiles and feel the warmth of their hugs on Christmas morning, feel the hope behind those embraces because that’s God’s love for you.

Wishing you and your loved ones Hope, Joy, and Love this Christmas.

©fm1_12.24.2013





 

Friends for Life…

(written on the eve of my birthday)

When we come across people in our lives, we sometimes forget why and how we met them. If you really think on how you spent your day, do you really see the significance of people around you? Or are we so wrapped up on our daily routine and responsibilities that we never really sit down and think of how we spent our time with people we care about or those who care about us. What is it about people that make them so neglectful of others? Or is it just human nature that we sometimes do not see the importance of a person just because they are always there with us.

We have read several times that “people come into your life for a reason” – vague but true. I am always grateful for those people who I have met along the way and left a huge impact in my life. I have been extremely fortunate that I have always met the right people at the right time, at the right moment in my life. I call them FRIENDS for life. I have to admit I was never alone in my successes (and failures) because there were always special people who stood beside me, believed in me, and made sure that I go through life with ease. On this eve of my birthday, I want to say “thank you” to those special people!

©fm1_12.02.11

Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
    one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
    and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
    But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

~ Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

“God Works While We wait ~ Louie Giglio, Author


A Season of Gratitude

There are so many things that I am very thankful for in my life. Special people I will never forget. Every year when the season of Thanksgiving come around it always reminds me how special this day brought a different meaning to my life. Fourteen years ago, a gentle, kind friend taught me the true essence why we celebrate this season. I never understood the meaning of the celebration and I have always thought it was just a typical American tradition or like any other holiday that we get the chance to take off work and sleep in; bringing food to someone’s house like in any party when you get invited or cooking at your house and inviting friends and family over. In the past, to me it felt more like a chore because I was participating with the fallacious idea of just being present is enough.

Fast forward…aaahhh…the month of November! As I entered my building apartment, I saw boxes of deliveries to my neighbors and as I stopped to look at one of the boxes, I recognize this familiar image on one of the boxes ~ Cornucopia ~ a symbol of abundance!

Thanksgiving is a celebration of the abundant blessings in our lives throughout the year. A day to express our gratitude to our Heavenly Father for all the blessings we have received from Him throughout the year ~ our family, our friends, our job, and even our pets that keep us company. It is everything that represents our accomplishments through the months of hard work and struggle, then finally reaching to where we want to be. We gather with people who plays a significant role in our lives and we celebrate with them joyously. We express this feeling of gratitude that we are still here in the present, standing strong through it all.

The banquet of food and the presence of love ones and special people in our lives, remind us that we made it through because of our existence with one another. One place – same people – one celebration. We all went through struggles, love, laughter, peace with the same people who are standing with us in this thankful celebration.

Realization struck me that Thanksgiving is not just an American tradition nor just another holiday. It is a day to remember and be thankful for people who are currently in our lives and those who have passed on ~ a friend, a family member, or someone who played a significant role in our lives. It is a reminder that Thanksgiving is not just one day in a year, not in one place nor country. It is every day and every moment that we need to pause and be thankful to Abba Father that we were given the precious gift of life and the opportunity to share it with others.

Thus, I say, if I have not said in the past…. Thank You to you all who played a huge significant role in my life.

©fm1_11.22.2014

Finding Your Joy…

As parents we want our kids to experience and enjoy all kinds of activities in school. We encouraged them to join sports so they can be with their friends and have a well-balance life.  Often, we think that all books with no play, makes our kids a dull person. For those kids who are introvert, we sometimes feel that sports are the best route for them to express themselves. Maybe so – maybe not.

When my daughter was in the elementary school, I encouraged her to join little league soft ball at third grade. As the only child, I wanted her to develop her social skills through sports.  You see, my daughter is more on the book-side.  Give her a book and some puzzles or Legos, she will be happy and content staying in her bedroom. But I really wanted her to have a perfectly balance personality.  Being the youngest in my family, I was often left alone to entertain myself.  I love playing with my brother’s match box cars. I used to put strings on it so I can pull it and pretend that I am driving a red toy car.  There is nothing wrong in finding content being by yourself.  But I wanted my daughter to have more fun and have a circle of friends.

As she climbs through eighth grade, she was in volleyball and basketball with her school friends.  She was also an excellent swimmer at the YMCA.  I was always proud to see her do a 3-point shot in her basketball games. She made it look so easy.  I think I was the one more enjoying it than she was. She would play but I can tell her heart is not really one hundred per cent in it.  She would do it because all her friends are there playing sports. But deep down she enjoyed and preferred getting lost in her imagination when she is reading books.

When she went to high school, she courageously told me that she did not want to do any sports. Instead she joined the orchestra in school playing second string violin (this is another story for later).  I was not surprised to hear that.  Ironically, I was expecting it.  But I was happy that she was brave to tell me the truth.

It reminds me of Colossians 3:23-24

23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

You see as adults; we need to understand that there are things in life that we do out of necessity like working in a job that may not be our dream job but meets our financial responsibilities.  But even then, we need to put our heart into it to make sure that we accomplished what the organization requires from us. And our work – we offer it to the Lord.

One of the many things that I taught my daughter when she was growing up is that when she starts a project,  to make sure to see it through to the end or do not start a project without the intention of finishing it and to always put her heart into it. Wonderfully, her inner creativity came out in every project and design she did in school. It was obvious that her heart was into every one of them. Her work is always exemplary!

God sees our hearts when we do things out of love and sincerity. We give tithings, we serve the community, we stretch ourselves on helping our families, and friends because we want to, not because we are forced to.  Jesus did not die on the cross because he was obliged to. He did it out of love and His heart was one hundred percent in it.

© fm1-11.19.20

Tips for Healthy Holiday Eating

The holidays are coming and the gift no one wants are those extra pounds associated with holiday eating. On average, Americans gain 1 to 2 pounds over the holidays. Fortunately, there are several ways to avoid the dreaded holiday weight gain while also enjoying the holidays.

1. Eat Wisely

Practicing mindful eating every day can help prevent overindulging while also increasing enjoyment. Be mindful of those hunger cues. Eat slowly and savor each bite.

2. Portion control

This is a key to enjoying holiday foods without feeling deprived. Use a smaller plate that allows for less food on your plate and aids in portion control.

3. Fill up on fiber-rich foods

These help satisfy hunger and are lower in calories.

4. Don’t skip meals

When you skip a meal earlier in the day, you are more likely to overeat at dinner.

5. Reflect on your favorite holiday foods

Make sure to incorporate them while also avoiding the foods that do not bring enjoyment.

6. Don’t deprive yourself of every treat

Enjoying a sweet treat each day while also choosing healthier snacks is a great way to have balance and not fill up on empty calories.

7. Incorporate vegetables

Keep a bag of fruit and veggies with cheese, yogurt, or hummus available to enjoy for a snack. Or make a large salad with a colorful assortment of favorite fruits and vegetables.

**Recipe ideas: Appetizers can include vegetable strips with a low-fat dip. Or serve baguette rounds topped with light spreads such as hummus and basil, chopped chicken or a bit of salmon. Vegetable roll-ups can be served using a thin pastry such as rice paper. Fill them with low-fat cottage cheese, tofu and fresh vegetables.

8. Maintain an exercise routine

Aim for 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity each day to help you feel healthier during the holiday season. A brisk walk after a holiday dinner is a great time to catch up with family and friends. Be an example and get the kids involved in exercise while on break from school. This helps support healthy habits at a young age.

Ways to modify holiday recipes:

• Choose unsweetened flavored beverages and hydrate with water.

• Choose white meat without the skin is a lower-fat choice than dark meat.

• Limit gravies and cream sauces to just enough for taste.

• Cook stuffing in a separate dish from the meat: It will be lower in fat and there will be less risk of food poisoning from undercooked meat juices.

• Consider serving baked potatoes, yams and steamed vegetables plain rather than as part of a rich casserole or covered with cream sauce. Experiment with spices to flavor vegetables.

• Substitute evaporated skim milk or plain low-fat yogurt for cream and sour cream.

• Use less sugar in baked treats by using pureed fruit for natural sweetness.

• For dessert, limit choices to only 1 or 2 items and choose a smaller portion.

• Skip the eggnog and choose fewer alcoholic drinks, which tend to be higher in calories. One serving of alcohol is 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of light beer or 1.5 ounces of liquor.

“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit..” (Ephesians 5:18)

Luke 17:15-19

15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

Greater Than All My Regrets

Turn, Lord, and deliver me;
    save me because of your unfailing love.
Among the dead no one proclaims your name.
    Who praises you from the grave?

I am worn out from my groaning.

All night long I flood my bed with weeping
    and drench my couch with tears.
My eyes grow weak with sorrow;
    they fail because of all my foes. ~ PSALM 6:4-7

Isaiah 41:9-10

9 I took you from the ends of the earth,
    from its farthest corners I called you.
I said, ‘You are my servant’;
    I have chosen you and have not rejected you.
10 So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Can you imagine living every day with FEAR?

God knows that we will be afraid. Over and over in scripture are these reminders:  Do not be afraidDo not fear.

Is there really anything that we should be afraid of when we have God with us?