To the Month-Old You

It’s true what they say… It was not love at first sight. In fact I was too groggy from the drugs a day after delivery that I chose not to see you yet. But because of hospital policy, you were brought to me, with all that’s hooked to my body and as I suffered a very strong headache.  I was asked to feed you. And with all the strength I could muster and we both fumbled on our first attempts at latching.

Yet, I was very happy to see you- the embodiment of the love and journey your father and I shared the past five years or so. You reminded me of everything good and beautiful that came out of us. You truly are God’s masterpiece and I was delighted to be called your mom.

But not soon afterwards, the reality of being a mother to a newborn hit me. And it was not pretty. Inspite of all the readings I’ve done to prepare myself, I was still clueless. And I didn’t know just how clueless I was until the day we arrived home. You filled our days (and nights) with crying, demanding to be fed, and more crying. I couldn’t understand you, and breastfeeding was extremely difficult. I couldn’t fill your needs, much less fill my own needs as I recover from the operation.

Our first week together was draining and stressful. When I looked at you, I saw not a baby, but an alien who wails and turns red in frustration if no milk comes, who needed my attention 24/7. I barely moved or walked, in fear that you’d wake up and the episodes of crying will begin again.

Week two came and I was getting frustrated at our many unsuccessful attempts at latching, or the thought that I’m not giving you enough milk. The fatigue and sleep deprivation was too much that I lost weight. I found myself teary and lonely most of the time. I wanted to give up and feed you formula milk instead. I confided with friends, mothers with experience and leaned to their advice and encouragement. I asked for prayers. I took courage at the thought that this too shall pass.

On the third week, I began to see the good things in you. You started showing a pattern for when you wanted to sleep and be fed. At night, you started sleeping 3-4 hours at a time. And we were also making progress at latching. Thank God the prayers worked! Its true what they say, it gets better as the days go by.

And now you’re one-month old. You’re showing us your moods and EAGLE_0012taking interest in your surroundings. You even have a particular time of the day when you’re alert and awake long enough to listen (and respond) to your grandparents’ and aunties’ talk. Also, you don’t cry as loud anymore. And you welcome my cuddles and respond with involuntary smiles. I guess you are already learning to trust us, trust me.

And this is just our first real month together. :) I just want to say that even though my arms numb out from carrying you and my figure doesn’t come back to normal to nourish you enough while you feed, and even though there are more unpredictable happenings down the road… I will stick to this journey with you because you are God’s wonderful gift to us. And I know all these sleepless nights, fatigue and stress will pay off in the end, when we see you growing to be the person God designed you to be.. Be a good boy these next weeks and months of babyhood, okay?

Your father and I love you very much and will continue loving you forever.

Always,

Mommy

The Single Me vs the Married, Soon-to-be Mom Me

Here’s a confession: recently, a part of me envied friends who have all the time in the world to do the things they want to do in life. They proudly pose their recent travels and expeditions on Facebook, they go on adventures, see new places, hang out with friends until dawn, etc etc. They seem to really enjoy living the moment, enjoying everyday as if it was their last.

As for me, I’m waiting on God’s promise in a form of a baby boy- who’s coming into our lives, any day now- all precious and fragile, our first born.  Its a thrilling, amazing new experience indeed. But because the past nine months have solely been about protecting him, keeping him safe and making sure everything works out well in preparation for his arrival, I didn’t get to do much travel or go on adventures. I also had a sensitive 1st and 2nd trimester of pregnancy which made it difficult to move around too much.

And all these made me ask myself if I had enough of being single, if I’m ready to move on to motherhood?

But before I could complain and have regrets on what could’ve been, God showed me another perspective as I reflected these past days.

God is the Author of our seasons. He knows the timing is just right when Ico and I got married. He knows the timing is also right when we learned that I am pregnant. He knows we were ready to have our own children. It was definitely a start of a new season and we walked in His grace the whole time. I was reminded of this verse:

“It is the blessing of the Lord that makes rich,
And He adds no sorrow to it.Proverbs 10:22

Bearing a child is a great blessing and I can testify that during the nine months of pregnancy, God never failed to provide everything that we needed- a good house, a nice second-hand car, and jobs that could sustain us. Married friends would ask us for prayers, hoping that they could also conceive. God has blessed us so much that I should not have any room to think back and say I have regrets when I’m sure that God has a great purpose for all this.

I realized that it all boils down to our priorities in life. Really. What you prioritize, you will set your focus on. All your energy and time will adjust according to what you’ve set as first, second and third in your life.

And here’s where I am constantly impressed with my husband. When i look at him, I don’t see a stressed-out, confused guy thinking if he’s had enough of his singlehood (read: DOTA, fulfilling his own dreams) or not. Without a doubt, there’s new motivation and passion in his life that I only saw when we got married and learned that we’re going to have a son. He knows his family comes first and THAT’S his priority. After God and us, everything else comes third. He amazed me by the way he took care of us. Even aligning his job and life so that he could provide and make sure I had everything I needed. Ofcourse, he also treats himself and makes healthy connections with other men too.

I also entered marriage with family in mind. Ico and I have been close for four years before we became boyfriend and girlfriend. And we’ve had our share of fun and adventure. So coming together being married, I wanted to build a good, God-fearing household with Ico.

So this brings me back to my question to myself about if I’ve done enough traveling, or gone to adventures or not.. Perhaps, this is not the time for that. Perhaps it will be more memorable when I get to travel and go on adventures with Ico, and our baby boy.

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I remember talking to a colleague back in Cambodia, who just had her second baby (her first is already around 2 years old). Before childbirth, she was one of the most active women I know, played Frisbee, traveled around Asia, etc etc. Now fast forward to two kids later, I don’t see any difference with her demeanor at all. She’s still the pretty active, athletic woman I saw in Facebook posts. And what she said to me was valuable. She said, “Ofcourse you can still do the things you did before, but just in a much slower pace..” Everything else considered, she still enjoys going on adventures with her husband, with their two beautiful kids in tow.

So, I decide right now not to live in regrets of what could’ve been. Yes having a baby will change our lives completely, and it will be difficult as I often hear from moms. But it doesn’t mean my dreams and desires have to end when the baby is born. I just need to work harder to achieve those ambitions while enjoying a new life with my own little family.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:11

Pregnancy Discoveries – What it Really Feels Like

photo lifted from Pinterest

You find yourself happy one moment and sentimental the next. You feel bloated and experience cramps like never before. You crave for food you hated before you got pregnant. These are just some of the random side effects a pregnant woman experience in the span of nine months. I’ve read a lot of articles and books about pregnancy and all the hormonal changes and finally found them to be true based on experience. So if you’re pregnant or wondering what your pregnant friend is going through, here’s a rundown of things a woman discovers about herself and about her body during that nine months of  journey of pregnancy. :) Some are quite amazing while others are just funny and a bit annoying. Feel free to add your own discoveries here. Enjoy. :)

1. It makes you (feel) bloated. No doubt about it, weight gain is inevitable during pregnancy, and that’s not counting the actual baby weight. Blame that to darn cravings for sweets and oversized pizzas. :D Especially when you reach the 25th week and over, you’ll start to feel your legs and other parts of your body expand, and stepping on the weighing scale every doctor’s appointment is a dreaded wake up call to reality. Hello +10 to + 35 pounds from starting weight! And the hard part is really controlling what you eat. But don’t deprive yourself. Trust me, you and your baby need all the energy you can get. So just try to love your pregnant body and just think about going on a diet after that baby comes out. :)

2. Cravings are REAL. And there’s nothing stopping you from eating that pint of ice cream (or halo halo) you’ve been looking for since this yesterday. There’s just that sense of satisfaction and extreme joy once you finally got what you craved for. It feels a little bit like heaven, really.

3. Your hormones change the way you look. And I mean that dreaded darkened underarms, darkened skin, extra facial/body hair, enlarged hips, etc. But there’s also good news here. You’ll benefit from the higher level of estrogen that helps lessen hair loss, thus making your hair appear thick and shiny. Your nails tend to grow faster too, and you may even feel your skin glow.

4. You can’t help but waddle. Also known as the penguin walk. Once you’re near the end you start to feel your center of gravity shift. Here you find yourself leaning back more to balance the weight of that huge belly, and the weight also causes you to walk from side to side. Thankfully this only happens at your 8th-9th month, or when your belly gets too heavy to carry.

5. Your internal organs just don’t have enough room. You are always out of breath and you experience frequent heart-burns. Your bladder is about to explode every few minutes since baby’s head keeps engaging. Just google a pregnant woman’s body anatomy and you’ll see how much room your organs actually have during pregnancy.

6. Your pelvic bones hurt from your baby’s head-banging. Once you’ve reached 9th month, you’ll experience the baby engage in your pelvic region, slowly pushing himself head first to the position of getting ready for delivery. This time is exciting and also quite painful at the same time. Especially if you’re having a boy like mine who likes to rock it in there.

7. Baby’s movements intensifies as you near your due date. Those cute kicks and thugs you feel in the 20-30 weeks? They might feel amazing now, but they will get stronger until you feel like you’re being punched in the stomach and kicked in your ribs, literally! Don’t worry, they say the more active your baby is, the healthier he/she is. So endure the movements awhile and just think of how your baby is preparing well for his big debut out in the real world!

8. Pregnancy makes you a short-term VIP. One time I went to a government agency to renew my healthcare ID and ensure I get the benefit from the hospital where I’m going to deliver the baby. The guard gave me one quick look and handed me a regular customer number, which means I had to wait in line with 30-50 people before me. I prepared to wait until after lunch to be entertained. But when he looked again and saw that I was pregnant, he took my number back and gave me a special pass instead! He said to just go to the teller who’s already available and they will entertain me. Wow, I never felt like a VIP in a government office before! What was supposed to be a solid hour of waiting ended in merely 15-30 minutes! I was able to renew my documents, pay the cashier and get my new ID in a matter of minutes. So here’s a tip on those women planning to go to governmentt offices: the best time to go is when you’re pregnant! :)

9. Pregnancy makes you “look” vulnerable. Friends, families and even strangers can’t help but be concerned about you- when you’re climbing the public transpo, going down the car, crossing the road, carrying groceries, etc. Maybe its that slow waddle you’re doing or that look of exhaustion in your face. But what I can say is enjoy the treatment while its there, because next time you’ll be the one looking after a very vulnerable newborn!

10. Finally, when you’ve reached your 9 months mark, you can’t wait to be back to your un-pregnant self. All the anticipation and excitement has reached its peak and is slowly starting to plateau now. You’ve prepared your baby’s nursery and your hospital bag is in the corner ready for when you need to rush to the nearest hospital. Everything is all set. Now, you’re very much eager to actually hold the baby in your arms and not just talk to your moving belly. And you’re looking forward to getting back in shape and not feel like a blown up version of yourself anymore. You tell yourself this will all be over after a few days/weeks…

But then again, this is just the beginning! :) Your next months, years will be filled with new discoveries and insights. This time as you learn to take care of a baby that you just carried inside you for nine whole months. :) And I honestly believe that that journey is worth looking forward to. Although the anxieties and worries are part of it, more than ever I’m eager to enter the joyful journey of motherhood! :)

me at 8.5 months :)

10 Prayers for 2014

Jeremiah-29-11-LONGIt’s the start of another year- a time to start afresh and make new plans, hoping to redeem what has not been so successful the past year and wish for the best this time around.

A lot of people write their new year’s resolution, plans and what-nots. Personally, I prefer spending the first days of the year reflecting and writing 10 declarations/prayers for the year in my journal. Then throughout the year, I tick off whatever prayer has been answered. :) I’ve done this for the past 3 years now and so far most of the prayers on my list, if not all, have been answered!

This time, I’m putting my prayers out there, to encourage readers and friends to start writing their own 10 prayers for 2014. Know that the God who created the universe, cares for you and like a loving Father, He grants your requests according to His purposes for your life (read Jeremiah 20:11)! I encourage you to try this out. Pray and reflect, talk to God about what you want for this year, and start writing!

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This 2014, I won’t be starting from scratch. My 2013 was decorated with colorful events like getting married and getting pregnant, but at the same time I also encountered challenges that made last year a roller-coaster ride… and that season didn’t end there. I won’t go into details but like everything God has taught me so far, I know that everything I  experience has a purpose. And this year is a continuation of that season. As I’m slowly picking up the ashes from the challenges of last year, I’m eager to watch how God will transform them into beauty this year. I begin my year with hope!

So here’s my list of 10 prayers/declarations. Start coming up with your own 10 prayers too!

1. Safe and Normal Delivery – As my due date approaches, I feel quite nervous with my first labor and delivery experience. And like all mothers, I don’t dream of having a c-section operation. Aside from being expensive, it would take a longer time to recover than with normal delivery. I’m just praying that everything will go smoothly and that there won’t be any unpleasant surprises! Lord, please make me courageous and strong.

2. Healthy and Happy Baby – Aside from being the cutest baby around, I’m just praying that God would keep him in perfect health as he finally makes his debut to the world!

3. Grace for Becoming first-time Parents – The second half of 2013, Ico and I began our exciting journey as husband and wife. And this year, we will embark on a new journey, and this time it comes with a new member of our family! It’s exciting to wait for the first person we will proudly call “anak“. But there’s also a great weight to the title “parents” and I just pray that by God’s grace, we can fulfill our roles well and become the best parents this baby could ever need or ask for.

4. Abundance in All Aspects (Open doors and God-given Opportunities) for me and Ico – When we got married, Ico and I really claimed and believed God’s abundance and grace in our lives as a couple. True enough, God has shown us His faithfulness and we’ve never lacked since (praise God!). By His provision alone, we were able to fend for our needs even with the challenges that came along the way. This year, we continue to claim abundance in all aspects especially with new opportunities and open doors. We claim that this year, we will see His goodness increase!

5. Good health and Abundance in our Families – Ico and my parents are very hard-working, even at their age when others have already decided to retire, they still tirelessly earn for themselves and for the rest of the family. My prayer for this year is that they remain healthy and that God grant them supernatural protection and strength. And that God would bless them greatly, like how He has blessed us.

6. Greater grace and supernatural breakthroughs for Delight Cambodia (DMI)- A church that we are part of, I pray that this year would give way to greater breakthroughs and supernatural abundance! God is glorified!

7. Grace for travels – I really really really want to travel to other places, to see new things and experience different cultures. And Myanmar is on top of that list, close to my heart and close to our base as well. But perhaps this is more like wishful thinking rather than a prayer, with the baby coming and all. But by His grace, nothing is impossible so I’m claiming at least one travel to a new nation this year! In Jesus name!

8. Deeper Covenant Relationships – One of the big lessons I learned in 2013 was that covenant friends (real friends) don’t come easily. Trials test even the closest relationships, and in those trials its a sad realization that some of those relationships are easily shaken. I pray that this year, I would come to terms with people I truly have covenant relationships with, and that God would lead me to real covenant relationships He meant for me.

9. Peace and justice in Cambodia – A nation now I call my second home, Cambodia is currently going through major transition. This year I pray for greater peace between civil, NGOs and Government sectors. I know its not an easy prayer but with God, nothing is impossible..

10. More opportunities to bless others – As Ico and I continue to pursue our expertise in the fields where God called us, I pray for more opportunities to excel and be a blessing to people He has given- through our work and ministry. May God continue to open doors to influence and be a blessing to others.

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By faith, I believe and claim that God will grant His grace and favor to make these prayers into reality this year.

Psalm 65:11 (NASB)

You have crowned the year with Your bounty,
And Your paths drip with fatness.

Now, I encourage you to start to pray, reflect and write your own 10 prayers/declarations for 2014 and see how God will accomplish them! :)

A Glimpse of HOPE

A guest post from Sotico Pagulayan III

Ico writes about Climate Change and his experience going around the different provinces monitoring agricultural projects. This speaks highly of what Cambodia needs in this time and season.

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In the past few months, Cambodia has suffered extreme weather conditions. While one area experiences drought, another has severe flooding. And as I went around CHAD’s projects in the provinces, most people I encounter could not hide their feeling of grief and hopelessness.

I visited Kratie in September and most of the area was submerged in water. Villagers were losing hope that their rice crops would survive the flood and they began asking for additional rice seed support. Also, while having the meeting to form a savings group in Srey Sokha Village, the water from the river swelled up so fast that we needed to leave early because we might not be able to cross the bridge going out that place. True enough, one of the participants called us that night and reported that the water rose up to his house and that they were stuck for a week in their village and they just used boats whenever they need to buy some things in the town. Before we left I also saw most of rice fields under water. And even the participants were not able to concentrate on the training because they were so worried about their rice being rotten.

I can relate to them because I come from a family that put their security on rice farming and every time we faced devastating typhoons in the Philippines, we tried to save rice from the rice fields, store them and never sell it.

Here in Cambodia, I realized that there’s great need to raise awareness about climate change among Cambodians especially those in the grass roots level. There should be a change in timing for planting and choose which rice variety is appropriate in their area, whether its flood or drought tolerant rice varieties.

photo courtesy of CHAD Cambodia

But in the midst of all these challenges, there’s a story of hope. As I visited Srey Sokha Village last week, I was greeted with a villager full of hope in her eyes. She said she was devastated emotionally and mentally when she saw her rice field submerged in water last September. She was just renting the land to cultivate rice and seeing it under water was the worse thing she could imagine. She asked herself how can she repay the owner of the land and how can she support her three children and grandchildren since she lost all her harvest.

But last week she said that her rice farm was preserved from the flooding. The water only lasted for two weeks and that her rice crops recovered but she lost almost 30 to 40% of the total harvest. She was still grateful and happy knowing that she has harvest this year and that she can repay the owner of the land.
Stories like this gives me more passion to share my expertise in agriculture. To empower those who are weak and poor, and spread hope in the midst of calamity.
To be the salt and light for this ever-changing world.
See original post here. 

Going Where Eagles Fly

juvenile_bald_eagle_and_rainbo_by_akshelby-d41ke2aThose who’ve read my past entries know how I cherish seeing eagles- especially in this new journey with Ico. From the wedding prayer Pastor Paul spoke to us, to our Honeymoon, even to moments in Cambodia- God never fail to remind us of His faithfulness by allowing us to see eagles soaring above the mountains, as if beckoning us to do the same. Eagles go to the highest heights, and soar with their wings stretched out wide, and glide where the wind would take them. They effortlessly stare at the sun, and are not afraid to soar above storms, higher than snakes can endure. They are definitely the epitome of what God wants for us this season. A season to rise above storms.

And as if to highlight this season, God allowed me to have a very personal encounter with this majestic animal.

I was at Delight’s Leaders Retreat in a small island off the coast from Sihanoukville. We stayed at the only resort in the island, with old cottages laid out across the shore, about 50 meters away from the water. In the middle of the island was a small jungle trail littered with millipedes. You’d hear distant sounds of birds and other “wild” animals. Eagles soared above the island mountaintops. It’s proof that we’re surrounded by relatively undisturbed wildlife.

But all that excitement of being close to nature was nothing compared to a 20-second encounter I will never forget.

So there I was sitting alone inside our bungalow. Everyone else was in a meeting a few hundred meters away so I was the only one around, listening to the soft crash of waves and gazing at the horizon.

Suddenly, a majestic sight came into view… an full grown Eagle landed out of nowhere! And I could tell it was huge since I was around 10 meters away but it was still already big, like a middle-sized peacock. It hopped and hopped looking for something in the sand, and then it turned its back and faced the ocean. Next, it spread its majestic wings that I could see the details- from its white head, to its shiny brown feathers and black tips. That took my breath away. After a few seconds, it flew away carrying a small animal/fish in one of its talons. And when it was already a few meters into the ocean, it dropped the animal and gave it a quick glance. Finally the eagle flew away.

I was still awestruck with that close encounter, at the same time I wondered why it intentionally dropped the animal- maybe it was too small for his/her chicks waiting at home, or it wanted to save the small animal- I can only guess. Later when I told my church mates about this close encounter, one of them actually saw the eagle earlier, standing on top of one of the trees nearby. This assured me that I really did saw an eagle and not just any other large birds.

The experience is still fresh in my mind. Of all the places the eagle could’ve landed, it landed basically in front me! And of all the sights, why did I see it while it was looking for something to feed its chicks? And why was I the only one who saw it? Was God telling me something about being an eagle? About being a mother?

This confirmation of God’s presence couldn’t come in a more perfect timing. I’ve been wondering, searching, and looking for answers for questions that have been weighing me down the past couple of months. But this encounter silenced my apprehensions about God’s great plans for me. It was as if a wave of peace came over me- assuring me that God is near and He will carry me through. I will rise on wings like eagles.

I’m not the kind of person who goes out looking for signs and physical confirmations from God. But sometimes, what you need are actual visible confirmation of God’s word in your life. And it’s always in a form that you will not expect nor search for. The God who orchestrates everything in your life to work for your good, also knows how to affirm you and confirm His promises.

And in this season that I am in, I really really need God’s confirmations and presence all the more. And there’s no less confirmation than being in the presence of a majestic, mighty eagle showing you how to live. +

For those curious, I think THIS is the eagle that I saw.

Busting those Pregnancy Myths

1374211_529570993789647_344864564_nI’m slowly easing into my mid-second trimester and these past days I’ve been feeling “normal” again! No more queasiness or feeling fatigue, and that sensitivity over food finally fading… (finally, I can eat whatever I want…well except fried chicken- the mere thought still makes me gag..). I’m so relieved to find out what they say about the second trimester is true- that its definitely 100x better than the first!

Now that I’m already sporting a bump (and slowly gaining too!), people can’t help but notice. And as if by instinct, some colleagues, friends and even our landlord start to give me random advice about not doing this or that. Especially staying in Cambodia, its interesting to note how many pregnancy myth people believe and follow!
So here I’m writing down some of the amusing myths I’ve heard so far…

Myth # 1: Don’t drink dark drinks or your baby will turn out to be dark. In contrast, drink milk so your baby’s skin will turn out white. Or have regular interaction with white skinned people, so your baby will have white skin too!

Well, for Ico and I who both have brown skin, I’m quite sure our baby will turn out morena too- no matter how many gallons of milk I drink! :P And even though I work with Caucasians everyday I’m quite sure their skin color won’t rub off on my baby!

Myth #2: Don’t go swimming or do exercise when pregnant
Exercise, especially walking and swimming is actually good for pregnant women. I myself find swimming relaxing and I’m definitely inclined to take some dips during my third trimester when my belly gets heavier! So, pregnancy is no excuse to stay in bed and become lazy (well, except when you’re feeling nauseous). :P

Myth #3: Being outside during full moon can create harmful side effects to the baby’s physical/mental health
I’ve searched and searched for studies that would prove this to be true, but to date there are no scientific evidence to prove that the moon has any effect on pregnancy! So for me right now, I consider this a myth (unless you have any resources I can read that actually correlates the full moon and harmful effects on babies!). What I do believe is that praying and declaring good health for the baby will make him/her physically and mentally well!

Myth #4: You always have to be happy to ensure the baby’s good health
Like any normal person, a pregnant woman feels emotions like stress, loneliness and of course, joy. New studies actually show how “tolerable” stress is actually good for the baby and increases his/her chances of survival in the real world. I guess it has something to do with coping mechanisms. So cut your preggy friends some slack and allow them to feel sentimental from time to time.

Myth #5: You can’t drink coffee when you’re pregnant
This debunked myth is great news for coffee lovers like me! HOWEVER, there’s a regulated amount of coffee that you can drink in a day. Research finds that drinking 1 cup of coffee a day won’t do any harm for your baby (or you!). So friends, sorry but this girl’s going to go out for coffee one of these days. But of course with limit. ;)

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Other interesting myths I hear about is how to know the baby’s gender. People say when you’re inclined to wearing dark shades and is “carrying low”, you’re probably having a baby boy, while if you experience less morning sickness and often crave for sweets, its a girl! And the list goes on… Well, what if I have all those symptoms? Haha… no kidding! :)
Anyway, we will settle this once and for all when i go for another ultrasound appointment this week. We will finally learn our baby’s gender and I can’t wait!! Then I’ll be able to start planning for colors and baby names!! ^_^

The Revelation :)

A few months ago, I experienced the most beautiful day of my life when I married my best friend.  And that was only the beginning.

Forever and ever started after coming back to reality- coming back to our work in Cambodia, settling down in our own home, dealing with financial issues, and finally getting some routine as husband and wife.

I was contended with what we had so far. Little did I know, God had a lot more in mind for us!

After weeks of feeling nauseous and a surpising increase in appetite, Ico and I finally decided to visit the doctor for a check-up… and guess what I found out? I’m pregnant!

A whirlwind of emotions swept over me for the next few days. I couldn’t believe that this could happen so fast. But as they say, there are no accidents.

So I bravely stepped on this new journey called pregnancy.

And today, Ico and I just went for ultrasound and guess what I saw inside my enlarging belly? I bouncing 7.5 cm baby!! When I laughed, the baby moved and bounced! And at one point it bounced and bounced until it faced us so we can see his/her growing face! This child is not shy at all!

And now I find myself marveling over God’s design for families. This is why Ico and I became one in the first place- to give to the world an individual who can all the more give glory to God through his/her life. A year from now we will have the first child of the Ulindang-Pagulayan family. And the first grandchild on both sides- that will make this baby a (very) spoiled child.

Ico and I also began dreaming for our baby and praying over him/her. God knows the plans He has for us even before we are formed in our mom’s womb- and I’m sure God has a great destiny for this beautiful child growing inside of me. And we are just so secure that He will provide everything that we need, because He is the Giver of perfect gifts!

I look forward to the next months anticipating more milestones and highlights in this journey of pregnancy. As I and my husband continue to delight in God, I’m sure He is faithful to grant all the desires of our hearts- including a healthy, beautiful, blessed first child anyone could ever have.

Bouncy Baby Patty or Ico

Rediscovering the Value of Sleep

Newborn-Baby-Sleeping-MoodSleep. I’ve been needing a lot of it lately. Not because I am deprived or because coffee keeps me awake. It’s just because.

Experts say you should get at least eight hours of sleep a day to gain maximum productivity and allow your memory to retain information. And I found this to be true. I become more productive and perceptive when I get 7-9 hours of sleep the night before. On the other hand, I’ve also experienced sleeping for barely 5 hours and feeling drained, cranky and forgetful the next day. Truth is, when you don’t have enough rest, you perform less, become irritable, and more prone to fatigue.

And its especially dreadful experiencing this during workdays. I remember sitting in front of a colleague while doing a video interview with her. I cued her with the questions to which she answered. While she was explaining and talking to me, my eyes were so heavy I couldn’t help but be out of it every few seconds! Thankfully, I wasn’t the one being videotaped! But imagine my colleague’s amusement as she was staring at a dozing interviewer. And it was just 11 o’clock in the morning.

So lesson learned, after that (embarrassing) incident, I decided to make it a point to sleep a minimum of eight hours a night.

I think sleep also means absolute rest. Rest from thinking, worrying, planning. God is so wise to allow our bodies (and our minds!) to experience relief from the day’s work- by surrendering a few hours to the subconscious, quiet world of sleep. Like the verse in the bible, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matt 6:13, I believe sleep is the perfect “ending” to conclude today’s concerns and worries to get ready for another day filled with different worries and concerns.

As a newly married couple, my husband and I also find resting together at the same time good for building deeper intimacy. While lying in bed, we share our deepest thoughts (concerns, plans, etc). And together we surrender them all to God in prayer before we finally go to sleep.

Sleep is letting go of our present circumstances and allowing ourselves to rest, knowing that we have done our best, trusting that God will take care of the rest.

When I was younger, I really didn’t like sleeping much. Believe it or not, I thought it would make me fat. So I steered clear from taking afternoon naps and long night sleep. I stayed up late and woke up early.

But today I’ve experienced enough to know that nothing is worth compromising a good, restful night’s sleep. :)

Here are more readings on the effects of having a good night’s sleep; or the lack thereof:

http://www.catfootwear.com/UK/en-GB/Product.mvc.aspx/28298M/0/Mens/Alec?dimensions=0

http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2013/05/sleep_deprived_people_are_more_likely_to_cheat.html

Five Years in the Making

Today, Ico and I celebrate our first month as husband and wife. But that’s not the only reason why we’re celebrating. We also celebrate our 5 years and 1 month of friendship. And I must say, without the latter, we wouldn’t have such a great 1st month of marriage as we are having right now.

paticoI remember the first two years we spent in Kampong Thom as workmates. We had very strict roles and boundaries. I cooked and he drove the motorbike, I bought the big water bottle and he carried it, we didn’t talk much aside from work. We argued more than we agreed. Our relationship was quite mechanical. But now looking back, those struggles really just brought us closer and helped us get to know each other better.

I guess that’s just a natural process of friendship… you grow in knowing one another. Through time you learn his/her likes and dislikes, push-buttons and pet-peeves. You learn to manage the relationship- know when to speak and when to keep quiet.

Today I look back at all the challenges, the seasons of waiting and I say its all worth it! I don’t know how our relationship would be like right now if we didn’t experience that closeness in the past. We would probably fight over everything from doing household chores to buying our silverware (considering our different preferences)!

428687_4906482061787_16458399_nIco and I were sharpened through those years of conflicts that today we just resolve to not fight over the small things. Indeed God made everything beautiful in his PERFECT time. Back then when we were struggling because of our fights, God must’ve said: “If only they knows how grateful they will be when they get married!”

So for me, FRIENDSHIP is really the best foundation for a deeper covenant- being husband and wife. When the time is right, and the friendship is “ripe”, the deeper covenant will just come naturally.

Although I’m not saying this is true for everybody. Some can enjoy their early years in marriage even when they just knew each other for only some time. Adjustment can be a breeze and differences resolved quickly. But as for me, I’m just glad that Ico and I passed a stage of friendship where we already learned how to deal with each other especially in times of trials. Now we can just focus on building our lives together as a family. And that’s the exciting part!

Ofcourse, we will experience challenges in the future, things that we haven’t experienced yet, but that’s why God gives sufficient grace for each of our seasons. And we will just continue to learn about each other. That’s what’s great about marrying your best friend, you just know you will accept each other no matter what. :)

So a lesson for those who are having exciting “friendships” right now and can relate to our experience – don’t lose hope… it will only get better!

The Vow

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Ico and Patty | May 16, 2013

As he said the first few lines, a surge of emotions overwhelmed me that I couldn’t help but cry. I know he gets poetic when he’s really into it… But this was actually the first time he expressed his emotions, dreams and vision in the most articulate manner- and in front of family and friends. I was speechless for a moment. Of all the prophecies that have been spoken to me, this one surpasses them all. Every word he spoke urged all that’s within me to say “Amen!”.

As he spoke his dreams for our future, I felt like I was being swept away- I was having my own encounters with God. His prophetic words released my own dreams. There was no doubt in my mind that these things will come to pass.

The signs didn’t end at the wedding.. for indeed it’s only the beginning. During the honeymoon we saw eagles- one as we entered and one as we left. These were not accidents but God’s way of confirming the dreams and the covenant we have with him. His promises became so evident, like the rainbow the greeted me the early morning of our departure.

Today, two weeks later I reflect on these divine events… we came back to a reality that we didn’t really forget- but now we have to see with different set of eyes.

We have stepped in a covenant with God and we have to hold on to His grace to keep our part of the covenant.

It’s going to be an exciting lifetime ahead.

What Your Dream Requires

What does it take to reach your soul’s greatest dream?

ALL OF YOU and nothing less.

All of your weaknesses laid bare.

All your hopes tested and tried,

Until everything is made clear.

 

It takes ALL of you.

Forged by trials,

To remove the unnecessary,

To strip yourself of childish ambitions,

To learn from numerous mistakes,

And grow from bruises and wounds.

Until the dream becomes you.

 

What does it take to reach your dream?

All of your fears,

All of your longings and frustrations,

All of your songs and sighs

Of Yesterday and Tomorrow.

 

You have to build on every struggle,

Strengthen yourself in adversity,

Never give in to mediocrity.

Always see within you,

And look ahead of you.

DREAM all that you can dream,

And remember that it will take

ALL that is WITHIN YOU.

 

Romans 5:3-5

“There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next…”

To Love Change

Honestly I’m not a big fan of change. Especially unexpected, sudden changes.

I know “it’s the only thing in the world that’s constant”, but still- I’ll never get used to it. I’m the type of person who values routines. And if change should come- let them come slowly, and with a big tab on the side describing the whole purpose for it.

But unfortunately, reality is not that friendly. Changes can happen so suddenly- and you won’t even have time to think through it right until after everything has happened and its all done.

Today I encountered changes that reminded me that it still exists, and I’m still not used to it.

Don’t get me wrong. There are changes that I do love experiencing- adventurous, exciting, exhilarating  ones- those that I am prepared for, or have anticipated coming.

But there are just some changes that have no explanation, leaving you sad and bewildered.

So how do you learn to love change? And how do you get used to it?

I sincerely hope that I would come to love change- the predictable and unpredictable ones.

Because I can’t get away from it. And even if I don’t understand it, I have to accept it. Because if I don’t… time won’t wait for me to move on. Everything and everyone will move on- and so should I.

The Life of Job

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My iTunes was on shuffle mode and accidentally played my Audio Bible. “Job chapter 1,” the deep voice announced. I was surprised, especially after listening to totally unrelated songs… But I was intrigued as I listened on. You see, Job … Continue reading

GO and GET it!

I just really feel the urgency to write these all down, while it’s still burning in my heart- and while it’s all fresh in my memory..

Our team had this extraordinary encounter with a feisty Singaporean businesswoman friend, who literally turned the market around when she came to establish her business here in Cambodia more than 20 years ago. She made such an impact that even her biggest competitor ended up following her every move in the market!

She’s been one of our few friends when we first started Delight here in Cambodia back in 2008, thanks to two of our beautiful Filipina friends ;) who connected us with her. And this Singaporean lady has been one of our biggest givers since!

We’ve always been so amazed and blessed by her life lived in excellence and passion for business that it’s certainly a pleasure to visit her whenever we have the chance.

So we knew that this encounter would be another inspiring experience.

Being the care-free, all-for-one and one-for-all team that we are, we crammed ourselves inside our car to deliver some home-made ‘products’ that she wanted to see.

So there we were, inside her mansion-house, chatting casually, unaware of what was to come.

But then came the topic of the evening- serious, proft-making Business… And I can tell you, it was like waking a majestic lioness from her sleep! She began roaring at us with all of her passion and love for business. It was the most educational and eye-opening encounter about business for us! She started teaching us about business from her 20+ years of experience and it was so enriching, like listening to a Sunday Service sermon.

We were then discussing about planning a new business or a new project. And these are some of the precious gems I got from her, that I want to share with you too:

  • Set a VERY HIGH goal for yourself and get it! You have to push yourself to dream, to set higher goals, bigger than yourself.
  • Be careful when starting a project! You must make sure that you can make it successful. Don’t touch a project if you think you cannot make it successful.
  • DREAM BIGGER DREAMS. Enough of trying the little things. When you’ve been in a place for a long time, its time to set bigger standards and chase it. (ouch >.<)
  • When your already engaged in a project, be careful and precise. Do not do things haphazardly. Do everything in excellence.
  • Be confident [in your product]. Be confident about your brand. Don’t be afraid to make demands and set standards. because this will help you rise you above your competition. It’s your confidence that will set you apart from the rest.
  • Don’t be afraid of competition. Face them head-on!
  • Don’t worry about the finances, be more concerned about ensuring high quality, and excellence in your service. You never know, people will just come and support you because you have a big dream.

Aside from some painful, punchy words here and there, I think all of us left the conversation more inspired than anything. Everyone became increasingly aware about business and more so, our personal lives.

Towards the end of the conversation, she finally spoke about an interest in starting another business…and that she could be our potential partner. BUT, not just any business. She challenged us to have a BIGGER dream… bigger than us. By then, we knew that we were in the middle of a ‘divine set-up’. I had goosebumps all over and my heart was thumping hard. It was one of those moments when you feel God is saying something so loud and so clear, through a very charming but scary businesswoman. God was telling us to dream BIGGER… because the provision is about to come our way.

Most of the time, we become contented with reaching a small goal, or a small achievement. Or maybe the ‘big achievements’ have become small… and we stopped dreaming bigger. We celebrate and lay back down in our comfort zones, ‘resting on our laurels’.

But after hearing from this ‘lioness’ who spoke with power and authority, we received the wake-up call that we needed. I was convicted of my own small dreams- and how I think I have achieved many- when in fact, they are only small compared to the BIG dreams that I have yet to achieve! My confidence does not only come from my own capacity or my own ability, but I am confident because I serve an all-powerful, gracious God who equips and builds me for His purposes.

This lioness, who started from basically nothing, has achieved so much in her life (at a young age, take note). Today, she has a well-established company run by faithful and well-compensated employees (some stay for more than 15 years). She owns vast properties and has other business ventures in and outside of the country, and she has made her mark- conquering the marketplace and toppling other companies before her. And all she had was her faith, her sheer determination, and courage!

All of her experiences speak so much into my life. But I am not intimidated. In fact, I am more than encouraged that I can do so much more than I am doing today. Because of my God, because He is the Lion in me. It also became clear as to why I am where I am right now, and how everything around me are platforms for the big things that I will do in the future.

I believe it is NEVER too late nor too early to set high goals for ourselves. And as I’ve seen in this lioness’ life, we should never be paralyzed by lack of resources. Because as for her, she just had a big dream that people became sold out and invested in it. All she had to do, was focus on working [hard] to make that dream a reality.

So, what are your BIGGER dreams?