Perspective

Why Volunteer?

I was fortunate to have been showered with lots of notes from my kids when they were young, back in the days when cellphones are not available for children. Looking at one of those notes I got, I was reminded of those sweet and memorable times I get to spend with my children’s school class. Once every week I allot one day each for both of my kids to do what the teacher would ask me to do. Most of the time it’s listening to the kids’ timed reading. Seeing improvement in each one of them by the end of the year makes my heart satisfied because I know that not all of them were taught.

I volunteered so many hours in my kids’ schools in different stages of their elementary school life. I won’t forget some of the most innocent questions I got. Young kids have unique abilities to melt someone’s heart. Instead of being burdened or tired after serving them, I find it invigorating. They put a smile on my face all the time. And those were my favorite days.

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Though I’ve been to many volunteer work, I find myself lacking in that area and still would want to improve. All of the voluntary work I did from when I was a young kid up to now, I would do them all over again given a chance because of the enjoyment and fulfillment. But what about when it is inconvenient, unpleasant and unglamorous?

Today as I was reading a book about praying for my children, my desire for my kids to have a servant’s heart became a prayer focus. That cultivating a servant’s heart in them is important and worth every prayer. It’s a call to selflessness. I was led not only to pray for my children but also for us, adults as well. That even in today’s culture of self-centeredness, we may find ourselves serving because we want to follow the example of Jesus. We are all called to servanthood not only within the confines of a church setting, but on an everyday living. It is in the giving up of our lives — time, talent, effort, resources and comfort at times when an opportunity for service comes.

So why we volunteer? It’s because of love. Only if we love, we can serve others without ifs and buts. And the motivation for that love is because we love the Lord. That in everything that we do, we do it with all our hearts, as working for Him, not for people. :)

Let us serve others in love. – Galatians 5:13

A Love for Reading

“For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you.”  – Anne Lamott

I remember the days when we used to go to our local library and borrow as much as 30 books in a single transaction. Our kids were exposed to so much library resources and best of all, they’re free! I enjoy every bit of time spent reading our borrowed books wherever we find it comfy to read.

But among all the books that we’ve ever read, about to read and cherished to read over and over, there’s one that stands the test of time. It’s the most precious of all, the Bible, simply because it is the written word of God. No matter how many times you’ve read it, there’s still so much to know, learn and understand. You will find yourself gaining not only knowledge but wisdom. And if you get deeper, it could change you.

Here’s why. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” – Hebrews 4:12

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photo credit: Ritrato Photography

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Some of the books we love way back homeschool days.

Salvation Mountain

Being a follower of National Geographic in instagram, I admire the works of natgeo photographer Aaron Huey. He featured the works of an old artist named Leonard Knight in his photography book, Where The Heaven Flowers Grow. And based from Aaron’s photos & updates in IG, I didn’t want to let this beautiful art be a thing of the past where I could just only see it in photos. Since the death of Mr. Knight in 2014, I think it’s quite a challenge to have someone continue to maintain his legacy. Thankfully, there’s a non-profit organization that helps preserve his artwork.

Salvation Mountain is more than 2 hours drive from San Diego but my husband and I were determined to go. Not sure though if my kids would be very happy about it since they have no idea what they will see. But grandma is here and they’re suppose to show her around.

Located in Southeast corner of California, Salvation Mountain was a product of hard work, passion and love for Jesus. This mountain artwork is an expression of the artist’s inner self and love for God that it took him more than three decades and devoted most of his remaining decades to do his creative preaching. He must be a cool, patient, free-spirited guy who lived his senior life playing with paints and dirts in the free city called Slab City.

My take on what my eyes had seen is that we can be creative and all-out in expressing our love for God. Some may find it to be just a cool “graffiti” or a hip place. Some may find it unusual and weird. But hey, the guy is preaching God’s love for everyone. Repent and invite Jesus into your heart. That’s what Mr. Knight wants to tell us.

Quoting him from an interview with LA Times, he said, “We’ve just got to start loving God more, and these things like wars wouldn’t happen”. What if we start loving Jesus more today?

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Blessing Our Children

Time passes by so quickly that I had to look for old pictures coz I miss them when they were this little. This led a prompting to say a little prayer of blessing for them. Paraphrasing Mary Ruth Swope’s prayer in The Power of Blessing Your Children here it goes…

In the name of Jesus, I bless both my children with the power to see with accuracy their special, God-given abilities. May they become a competent worker in the field of endeavor for which God has ordained them. May they see themselves as persons with many latent talents. May the Holy Spirit stands ready to help them understand and develop their gifts, so be bold in asking for His help. May the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit to help others be evident in your lives. I bless you with the anointing of God to fulfill His special purposes for your life. xoxo – Omma & Appa

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An Opportunity for Joy

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My husband and I went hiking on a winter season. The place is called Canyon Sin Nombre or Canyon Without Name. I can’t imagine this place during summer as it was so arid even in winter when dews are aplenty in the morning. We stayed overnight camping so we knew how cold it really was. It’s surprising to see this plant with red flower in the midst of dryness. How come it has thrived when everything is brown or black? My photo did not do justice to how pleasant it is to see a red flower in the desert. One can not miss it for sure. God can make things grow no matter how difficult it is to thrive. Not only that, things can even be beautiful and attractive!

Life can be challenging at times. And sometimes challenges happen at times when we are not ready and when problems keep piling up. But consider this: “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” James 1:2-4 (NLT). We have the freedom to choose joy and grow from experience. Are we going to allow dryness to overpower us? Or let joy overtake us and create something beautiful?

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High School AMPD Camp

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High School is starting for me. A new and somewhat long part of my youth. As a teen, there can be many obstacles that will trouble me through the years. Here at the camp, we discussed the various things that we, as Christians, believe will help each other and ourselves to stay strong through this times.

The beginning of the camp was very fun. Most of us have come to camp in the previous years, but some are newcomers. A lot of us, as soon as we got there, were looking for our friends. Others were looking for new friends. Going on in the evening, we started to play some games, like infection tag on a playground, which seemed childish, but it was fun. I eventually found myself making quite a few new friends in the process. We continued on that first night with dinner and worship. Worship is always fun at camp, you would find yourself praising God with your friends. Sometimes you would unexpectedly get chosen to do some games in front of the crowd, like having a team member throw eggs that you must catch into a plastic basket on your head. Overall, the first night was fun. The guys definitely didn’t stop there, after all the commotion of great and disgusting mini-games, we continued to play some sports in the dark. One example of the things that we did almost at midnight were some basketball. Some got injured, but they took it well and kept on playing. Sometimes the bad things can help us bond closer to each other. Once we had to go back into our ‘cabins’, we had a great time talking to each other, making jokes and whatnot. There was a very unexpected twist to the night though, right as we fell asleep at 2:30AM or so, our leaders woke us up very suddenly to go play games on a wet field. 2:30 in the morning is just great for sock wrestling in the wet and cold night. It was tough but i managed to play a few rounds against some older highschoolers. We then made some s’mores, very early in the morning.

After the fun stuff, we did some discussions about who we were spiritually. First day, we discussed about how we could be more aware of what we do and who we are. Some of the leaders spoke about their stories leading up to who they were before and who they are now. The next day was plentiful of games and fun events. The guys didn’t seem very tired on the outside, but they really were. One thing that stands out to me was how much nicer and outgoing the guys were when they were without their parents, other friends and society in general. Since phones weren’t allowed to be brought, most of us were talking a lot more to each other rather than texting or look through at their social status. Every morning and evening, we had group discussions about some bible verses that explain to us that we should be serving God and other, not ourselves as it says in 1 Peter 4:10, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms“.

After lunch, we started to play some games that really helped us be stronger as a team, and some for fun. One event that we do yearly is something we like to call the “Dye-Wars”, where the entire camp is divided into two teams and we soak each other with colored water in a full on battle across a large field. We do that just for fun. The games ended and we were allowed some free time. That night, we were discussing about making a difference in the world and what our purpose could be. One of the leaders, came up and talked about his mission trips to places around America. He went on a mission trip to Haiti, living there for 6 months in a very small and cramped room with another friend. They were building houses and preaching to the people, changing some of their lives. One man was saved with the leader’s help and continued on throughout the rest of their trip to help and spread the Word of God. Because of that leader, and other people, I feel encouraged to do some mission trips to help the people who don’t have God in their lives.

Some night games ensued the discussions and the worship. Dodge ball and Mission-Impossible were the more popular games we played. Mission impossible is a game where we, as a team, must reach a goal without getting caught by ‘guards’ who were people with flashlights. We also must get to the goal as fast as possible, but if the ‘guards’ catch us moving, we had to start over from he beginning. That night was the most fun I’ve had with my friends. One of the leaders offered to go to a nearby “45 minutes away” grocery store, almost at midnight, to purchase some snacks for our all-nighter. We gave him some cash and it turned out great. Some of us made it through the night while the others fell asleep. Jokes and our stories, as well as root beer, chips and candy, got us going through the night. I felt like we’ve been there for a week during that night due to how close we got to each other.

The next day was the end of camp. Most of us started packing up our stuff after the morning worship session. We didn’t do much that morning but talk quite a bit to each other, getting other’s information so we can still talk. The third day’s discussion was about Doing Something, whether is to join Life Group at our church, or even do mission trips. A leader, Patrick, spoke of the definition of Baptism. It is not something that we should do because others want to do it, but because it is a public example of our beliefs. I got Baptized and it was a great opportunity to do so with my friends. After the Baptism, parents started arriving and picking up their children. It was a little sad, but we will be seeing each other again. I can’t wait until next year….

 

Moonlight Beach

It was one of those days we get to spend time with new friends. We love to meet people and look forward to lasting relationship with people who loves the Lord. We had BBQ, bonfire, friends, cake for Laurence, ukulele playing by Michelle & a chance to see for the first time, Chinese lanterns afloat the night sky at Moonlight Beach in Encinitas. I was so thrilled to see those lanterns especially it was so dark in the beach. I love Tangled the movie because of the lantern scene. It was so pretty watching in 3D (that makes Tangled one of my most favorite movies of all time) & it’s so pretty in real life!

We are thankful to our friends who secured a place and fire pit early in the day so we could hang out in the evening. They even brought this bag toss game for couples (with Mr. & Mrs. on them to be played by two teams). So cute!

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Mich spent much time digging the sand while Ad was busy taking photos. moonlightA

We’ve never heard about Moonlight beach until this meet up. We were surprised that there’s such a beach in San Diego! It’s quite small compared to the more popular beaches but it’s more family friendly.
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When I was a kid, I don’t like sunsets. It signals the beginning of night and you don’t get much to do when it’s dark but to sleep. I am talking about sunsets in our province. That was the kind of sunset I have in memory. Sunsets in the province are way too different! They make me feel melancholic and I don’t like it. But now, I love sunsets! It brings the dark sky with twinkling stars. And it’s another time to enjoy. I love it when my boys love stargazing. It makes night time enjoyable and interesting.

Amazing, amazing sunset! How can you not love that specific day when you have everything needed for a perfect beach night? This is one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen in the US so far. I’ve always been chasing sunsets in America whenever there’s a chance but this was so special. It feels like you’re closer to the water and sun. The sky was filled with bright red, orange and yellow. It was a happy sunset! Everybody paused for a while and took photos (a lot!) of the lovely sunset.moonlight2

After the sun had set, it’s time for bonfire! It was cold so our bonfire was a refuge. We had a blast! I can’t believe that almost all the groups with bonfire had birthday celebrations each or at least something to celebrate. Hoping for more of this kind of activity with my family and some more friends. :)moonlight1_edited-1

Let’s Recycle

I’ve always been drawn to save-the-earth activities even in its tiniest form. What is the least thing that I can do to help preserve the earth for the next generation? Call me an OC but I can’t throw a clean plastic bag into the garbage bin. I would still keep it and wait for a chance to bring all my reusable plastic bags to a recycling bin in any grocery store. Any form of plastic packaging that still can be used once more in any way, I would keep. At least there’s one last way of using it before sending to landfill. A regular plastic bag takes up to a thousand years to degrade, fyi.

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When we were still in Utah, I had the habit of collecting all paper-made products and drive them to the nearest recycling bin (which can be found in an elementary school which happened to be my kids school) once a week to dispose them. It gives me satisfaction that something out of those recyclables can be used again. I’m glad that in California, almost everywhere you look around there’s a recycling bin. I get to throw my recyclables everyday. Even shredded paper & tissue holder can be put in the recycling!

Plastic bottles, glass jars & soda cans? If I can not reuse them at home, I try to segregate them in a separate bag so that people who are collecting them for a living would have an easier way (at least with our share). I could collect them and make money (I know it’s just small) out of it but I will leave that to those people who are in need of source. Reminded of Ruth’s life in the Old Testament where she gleaned grains from the field of Boaz to help her mother-in-law with their food, we could be a source too for other afflicted people. A small way can mean a lot to others in need.

Back in the days when Adrian and other boy scouts did a “leave no trace” cleaning in one of Kaysville’s highest peak, they picked up garbage left by people who went there. They had collected plastic bottles, candy wrappers, bullets & many more. Actually, I was one of the pickers too. I joined them and it was fun. It’s like doing two things at the same time, hiking and picking up garbage. It’s nice to let the kids be aware how important it is to dispose of garbage properly. I think we were able to fill two big black bags of litter for just about two hours of walking. And it made a difference for that mountain. Any little amount of effort that we can contribute to help preserve the earth, if we put it all together, will definitely be significant. Just like the starfish story, we can make a difference!

The Starfish Story

An old man was walking on the beach one morning after a storm.
In the distance, he could see someone moving like a dancer.
As he came closer, he saw that it was a young woman picking up
a starfish and gently throwing them into the ocean.
“Young lady why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?”
“The sun is up, and the tide is going out, and if
I do not throw them in they will die,” she said.
“But young lady, do you not realize that there are many miles
of beach and thousands of starfish? You can not possibly make a difference.”
The young woman listened politely, then bent down, picked up
another starfish and threw it into the sea.
“It made a difference for that one.”

A parable told and retold. The original author is unknown.

Tree

Trees are my favorite. My husband knows about my favorite tree. I had the chance to show him my first ever favorite tree. We were young then (in our 20’s) and not even in a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship when we went on vacation in my grandparent’s house in the province. The view from my grand’s big kitchen window was lovely to look at. There was this lone tree in the middle of the vast field that I find so beautiful. The sight makes my chores easier to do. It’s just sad that I had no actual photo of it but saved a virtual copy of it in my mind instead. Only my husband knows how it looks like and why i love it. So whenever we see a similar tree, he would point it to me and say “that’s your tree.” Yes, I have several trees around the world. Trees “I own” that they didn’t even know I own them. Haha!

Now, for my second favorite (in the picture), this tree was my favorite view from our bedroom in Utah. We had so much memories with this tree. We have designated this tree in front of our apartment as the waiting spot in case of emergencies. If something happens inside the house like fire or anything that need us to go out of the house, we will meet at the tree. Just like what the family in “Puppy Place” have talked about meeting at an apple tree outside their house when their kitchen was burning.

This tree was a witness to many of our family activities such as homeschooling, playtime, picnic, playing music, painting and many more. Mich used to practice violin under this tree. It had become a subject of her painting too. Fallen leaves were a source of happy times as my kids play with them.

It’s so refreshing to see trees after the rain. They radiate vivid colors once the rain finished watering them. They look so fresh and happy. It’s so fascinating to see trees when in springtime they show different shades of greens and sprouts. It’s so lovely to look at trees during autumn with leaves of different colors. Though during winter, it might be depressing to look at seemingly lifeless trees, but when they’re covered with snow, they’re still lovely.

Trees are givers of life to those who are in gloom. Just by looking at them in any season, you’ll see life and hope. Trees are not only beautiful. One can learn so many things from them. Even from a tree that do not have fruits but can give a shade to a weary person is a fruit in itself. Even a tree in its loneliness can provide a picturesque scenery that can inspire and motivate the viewer. A stump can give a seat to a person who can’t make another step due to his long journey. And even a dead tree floating on a body of water can be a lifesaver. In parallel, we can be a giver to those around us. No matter how we think insignificant our small deed is to another person, we can be like the tree that can inspire. Just being kind to another person could save a life who is in the verge of death. One might be undergoing some difficulties in life but overcoming adversaries and becoming victorious could paint a beautiful scenery that others can appreciate as they look at life…

Blessed is the one who finds wisdom
Blessed is the one who gains understanding,
She is a tree of life to those who hold her close
Those who hold on to her will be blessed – Prov. 3:13 and v 18 NIrV
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This is Michelle’s painting of the tree above during spring time.

Day 40: Promise

(Zion National Park)

For those who find me find life
and receive favor from the Lord.
– Proverbs 8:35
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