May 31, 2009

Practice Makes Perfect

They're all ready to paint their masterpieces. Water color painting is easy. All four of them thought so.

"Why do we need to do all these curve lines?" The eldest asked for reasons. He thought he's too old for this exercise. "You need to warm-up your wrist, familiarize the color shades, and practice controlling the strokes of your brush." Teacher- mom, too, must learn patience in the process.

Training.... practice... exercise..... in life not always fun. But if one understood the value, it could be done with a smile.

The younger you train, the better. Follow the rules, you learn obedience. Repeat the process, you learn patience, concentrate on your work, you learn focus, keep distance between lines, you learn control.

Same object and medium, different interpretations. All four are equally beautiful. Then, they learn respect and appreciation.

They're all satisfied with the result. Teacher-mom was reminded again, there's no short-cut to perfection.

Psalm 144:1
[ Of David. ] Praise be to the LORD my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle.

Photos by:RSM May 09

May 29, 2009

Who Made All The Flowers That Bloom?

One day, I took my home-schoolers to a field trip in a mall where a flower fair was held. Our eyes feasted on what we saw. Even my camera was humbled. It's power shot cannot capture the whole grandeur displayed. A skilled photographer cannot even contain everything in a frame what the eye behold in a single moment. Here are some attempts I made:

As I was taking all these and other shots, my heart was singing my old favorite song that I used to teach to my nursery class...
"Who made all the flowers that bloom, flowers that bloom, flowers that bloom?
Who made all the flowers that bloom? God in heaven above!"

Aren't we proud to be related to Him who made all these flowers that bloom?

27Can worry make you live longer? 28Why worry about clothes? Look how the wild flowers grow. They don't work hard to make their clothes. 29But I tell you that Solomon with all his wealth wasn't as well clothed as one of them. 30God gives such beauty to everything that grows in the fields, even though it is here today and thrown into a fire tomorrow. He will surely do even more for you! Why do you have such little faith? Matthew 6 Contemporary English Version

The earth is satisfied with the fruit of Your works. Psalm 104:13

Flowers... are a proud assertion that a ray of beauty outvalues all the utilities of the world. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1844

Where flowers bloom so does hope. - Lady Bird Johnson

All the flowers of all the tomorrows are in the seeds of today. - Indian Proverb

Happiness is to hold flowers in both hands. -Japanese Proverbs

May 26, 2009

Sweet, Smart and Seven

Dear Zoe,

You turn seven today! (May 27)

But even when you're already thirty, forty or seventy, you'll never cease to be our baby.

Here's some of your photos that show how you grow to be sweeter and smarter this year.

You are very playful and you like playing hide and seek around the house.

You enjoy hopping in the yard with Roger, your pet rabbit. You said you wanted to be a vet.

You are very eager to learn how to play musical instruments and you wish to play violin and flute.

You find tiny things, like this stuffed toy, really cute and you like squeezing them with you little hands.

You like to help in the kitchen and is always willing to do any chores you are asked to do.

You always have fun making faces and posing in front a camera.

You love Timmy and she likes playing with you, too.

You like taking pictures of mommy's flowers and also posing with them.

On Sunday, you surprised me. You asked Daddy to buy a single rose so you could give it to me. You are really thoughtful and sweet.

Always remember that Mom, Dad, Kuya, and Ate love you very much and we always pray that you grow up to be the woman God wants you to be.

Here's a poem for you from our friend, Laura.

Dear Zoe,
I hope your day is not dully,
because you're getting older,
and much bolder!
Have a great birthday,
In this special month of May.
Miss you like crazy,
I better go pick a daisy!

May 21, 2009


Yesterday was my birthday. I didn't do anything special but my heart was celebrating the whole day. Here's what I wrote to a dear friend:

"Thanks for the greetings. I expect nothing today. I just want to express
my heart that is filled with thankfulness for everything God has given me -
this life in Him that is incomparable to anything,
the joy of knowing
Him day by day,
the delight to love and be loved,
the pleasure of serving
Him along with husband and my children,
the happiness of having dear friends,

the thrill of walking by faith and the awe of seeing God's hand meeting our needs,
the privilege of being molded and
be transformed into His image .....
His wonderfulness surrounds me today!!!

I'm having a happy birthday, indeed!"

May 18, 2009

A Miracle To talk About

It wasn't just the usual pizza treat. It was obviously not the usual because Dad wasn't around for he was out of the country again for another visa run. And of course it is something different because this time Zoe finally ate pizza and asked for another slice! Zoe would never eat anything with cheese until today and we're so proud that she was brave to decide it's time to break that habit!

Well, as said, it is not the usual family time because we had a special topic. "Isn't it a miracle?" Naomi almost shouted, with both palms open as if eagerly wanting for everyone on the table to agree. But before someone could move a muscle to say a word, she then went "Wow, I can't believe it happened just as we prayed!" Naomi, turning ten, is now oftentimes caught talking like an adult yet still embodies so much raw of energy and playfulness that show much of her personality than her age. But I can't blame her for being overly excited for it was indeed a miracle worthy to talk about! And that is why I'm sharing this ......

For two solid years, the whole family prayed for one big thing we need as a family. Something we cannot afford naturally. Dear husband had been trying to calculate how we could arrive having the sum to afford it but always failed because other urgent needs just never ceased coming. He kept waiting online for some good deal and had saved a picture of it, the specifics of what we thought is best for our need. But sometimes, we just have to be patient and wait a little longer.... So, we laid this need safe down on the Master's feet. We would make mention of it each time family gathers to make petitions together. It's been on top of the list until days came slowly when all excitement died down each time we thought of it. Children began to wonder why it's not happening yet. I tried not to figure it out in my head how it's going to happen for it was beyond what I knew was possible. But we never ceased praying as commanded......

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. (1 John 5:14-15, NIV)

Until one day, the phone rang. The familiar voice of a dear friend on the other line brought the good news. I was on cloud 9 but it didn't hit me much yet until I echoed the news. There was as if a fireworks that followed my announcements. Everyone who prayed deserved to rejoice. No one imagined it would be done this way. We can have the exact thing we have in the picture and need not buy it. "It is free!!!!" Zoe, feeling like a champion winning a battle in prayer, bragged about it to a friend who was with us on the table.

Our children walk with us in faith. They are always surprised as much as we do when supply comes. We don't pretend we can provide for all our needs. They can only look up to us as parents who never fail them because we serve and trust a Dependable Master. And with this recent one, they have seen again the Faithful Hand bringing in what is needed. For sure, there will be more table talks on this topic and more pizza for Zoe!

I'm just wondering how come we say "It's a miracle!" when in fact we already know everything is possible with Him ? We know Him as a Miracle-Worker, the God over all impossibilities and yet we are are always found in amazement at His work. Don't you think He is more glorified when He sees us awed when He meets us in an unexpected way? Truly He is a God of surprises and we can never stop marveling at His ways.

...."Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." (Ephesians 3:20-21,NIV)

Gift#20: The joy and delight in seeing God's marvelous ways in meeting our needs.

"Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see." C.S. Lewis

Photo by: RSM 5-18-09

The Queen of Fruits

I wonder why people call mangosteen the queen of fruits. Is it because it looks like having a crown on its head or because durian, the king of fruits, is best eaten along with it? It is believed that mangosteen has cooling properties that counteract the "heatiness of durian. Also, both of these fruits come in the same season. Hmmm...maybe only the people in Malaysia know what I'm talking about here....anyways, I'm happy to announce that mangosteen (and durian) season is here!!

I have yet to know a person who doesn't like mangosteen. And for all of us living in this part of the world, we're blessed to enjoy this season as it is only 50 US cents per kilo! But I wonder how the farmers and growers are feeling this year?

Two years ago, farmers in the southern part of the country had protested against the government. The price of mangosteen had gone so low that they refused to sell it in the market but instead, threw them all on the streets. I believe the got everybody's attention. More studies were done on how to best market this fruit. We now can see mangosteen processed into candies, teas, juice, and herbal medicine.

Recently, my friend and I bought a carton of 1 liter 100% mangosteen juice for only 2 USD. My friend said that it's her children's favorite and it is sold in the US for 30USD so she wanted to buy more to bring home to her children.

May 10, 2009

It's a Good Day!

I almost forgot about it! I was glad I was able to catch my dear friend online and she greeted me first. My sis in the Middle East sent her greetings, too, almost at the same time. That's how I realized it's Mother's Day! So I quickly sent greetings to my mom and mother in-law. I understood why my husband and children also forgot about it. In our host country, Mother's Day is celebrated on the queen's birthday. (Yes, you're right! Father's Day is on the king's birthday.)

To celebrate the day, we went to our favorite local restaurant near our place and had a simple but full meal. "Full" means with rice. It is a small and homey place to eat and we always like their not-so-spicy local food, especially their creamy tumyamgung. On Valentines Day, our kids pulled their money and treated us for a good dinner and ice cream in this same place.

After that simple meal, Naomi and Zoe were ready for the special part -- dessert! But must pray first. Funny, I didn't notice them praying until I saw this picture. I thought that because we already prayed before the meal they wont be praying again when the dessert was served. Bless their little hearts.... I'm a proud mom.

They surely enjoyed sharing their banana split and ......

.....brain freeze!

Then the girls went shopping to buy mom plastic flowers which they arranged in a vase when we got home.
Ben, my son stayed at home to rest after running an errand in the afternoon. But he made this card for me. Sweet boy as he always been!

As Zoe said, it's a good day! I wish all mothers in the world a really good day!

Let me share an excerpt from the novel I am reading these days. It's a thick one, 474 pages with extra 18 pages about the author and the book. And I'm not half done yet so I can't make a critique of the author's moral standard. But so far, I'm enjoying it and I just came across pages that talk on motherhood. It's a gripping story that made me think again of what kind of a mother am I.

"That night at the moon viewing I realized I would always be deficient in great feeling. It was because I never had a proper mother. A mother is the one who fills your heart in the first place. She teaches you the nature of happiness: what is the right amount, what is too much, and that the kind that makes you want more of what is bad for you. A mother helps baby flex her first feeling of pleasure. She teaches her when to later exercise restraint, or to take squealing joy in recognizing the fluttering leaves of the gingko tree, to sense a quieter but more profound satisfaction in chancing upon an everlasting pine. A mother enables you to realize that there are different levels of beauty, and therein lie the sources of pleasure, some of which are popular and ordinary, and thus of brief value, and others of which are difficult and rare, and hence worth pursuing.

But through my formative years, I had only Sweet Ma (step mother). That woman with her parched innards tried to push upon me her notion of good things ---telling me to be glad I was not as bare-dressed as a tree in the winter, to be grateful that the little skeleton of a girl lying in a gutter was not me, to recognize that the shade of a willow tree in unbearable heat was a happy sacrifice I could make to those who were either older or younger than I was, which was everybody, as it always turned out. I followed Sweet Ma's instructions so that eventually I could feel not naturally, but only carefully."
Amy Tan's 'Saving Fish From Drowning', pages 31-32

After reading this part, I thanked God that I'm still alive and present to be a proper mother to my children.(And that's my gift entry # 9 for my 1000 gifts list)

Photos By: RSM May 10, 2009

May 8, 2009

There's No Place Like Home

It's 39.7 degree Celsius (103.4 degree F) in my kitchen today. The humidity is too high that I sweat a bucket. It feels like in a sauna! Enough reason to murmur and ruin my mood to cook dinner for family and my 3 guests. But because I made a commitment to think of the gifts I already have, I consciously shifted my perspective from wishing to have an air-conditioned kitchen and from blaming humanity of the global warming to focusing on the blessings that surround me at the moment. It is hard for me to concentrate when I struggle physically. How come it is always a lot easier to spontaneously react than to decide how to respond in a situation? I remember hearing someone teach that there are only two roads to go in every trial (big or small): "to joy or to despair, you choose". For a tropic person like me, the heat should not be a big deal of a trial but today there's an opportunity to learn how to consciously make an effort to choose which road to take. And I did!

As I was preparing the ingredients for my menu (ground beef, mongo beans, water cabbage, squash, onions, ginger, garlic, and coconut milk), a feeling of "home" crept into me that being thankful suddenly became an effortless task. Such an assuring feeling that washed away complaints. Such a refreshing thought that I made me forget I was physically melting. That's the power of home! My family is one of the best gifts God has given me. Indeed, there's always a reason to be grateful! And for this, I can't thank God enough!

I am also grateful that I now have access to all the ingredients for my recipes that I used to enjoy back in my home country. I've lived in a place for 5 years where the temperature can go as low as -28 degree C! Now, though still not in my own country, eating familiar food makes me feel near home and thus homesickness is no longer always a problem.

Gift #2: My loving family back in my home country.
Gift #3: Access to things that I used to enjoy back home.

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
1 Thessalonians 5:18

“A happy family is but an earlier heaven.” -John Bowring

“There is great comfort and inspiration in the feeling of close human relationships and its bearing on our mutual fortunes - a powerful force, to overcome the "tough breaks" which are certain to come to most of us from time to time.” - Walt Disney

Photos By: RSM May 8, 2009

May 7, 2009

One Thousand Gifts

"When everything around seems gray and failing, feeling left alone with a long list of needs and unanswered petitions, then it's about time to start counting your blessings." This is a good therapy, no doubt about it. I've done it many times and have encouraged friends to do the same. But do I have to wait to be down and out and feeling low before I recognize all the blessings I have?

A dear friend has shared to me (also in her blog) about the idea of The Thousand Gifts which was introduced to her by another friend (in fact, there's a blogger community that is doing this!) It's all about making a list of all the gifts - not the gifts we want but the gifts we already have. The goal is to list down the things that you're thankful for starting from #1 until you reach to your #1000Th gift. My dear friend has reached her 1000Th and now starting with a new list! Wow! Well, if you think it will take much of your time and commitment to do it (like me when I first heard about it), my dear friend and that grateful blogger community don't think so. We only need a small notebook and a pen that come handy whenever a gift comes to mind. It's actually a random list, meaning, gift#5 is not more important than gift #10, it just happened that gift #5 came to mind first. I think this is a great discipline to develop a grateful heart! Not just another kind of therapeutic exercise.

Today, I'm making a commitment. I'm starting my own list!

My appreciation to all who are already doing it and an invitation to those who have not.
Let's join the Grateful Heart Community!

For my entry #1: God in my life.
Like the white and fragrant flowers (Orange Jessamine) that are now in bloom in my yard, His presence is so pure and is evident everywhere I go. I know that a flower is too simple and low in comparison but there's much about it that reminds me of God's sweet presence in my life.

Orange Jessamine is more fragrant at night (I can smell it from all over the house) like God's grace that is more real in the dark moments of my life. Its flowers bloom only for a day but another set is ready to bloom, fresh and white, the next day. Just like God's faithfulness, new every morning.

Photos by: RSM May 2009

May 6, 2009

A Short Tour to Cambodia

This is one of the gates to Cambodia. This is Aranya Prathet border. I could no longer count how many times I've crossed this border. What I noticed, though, a few days ago, on my recent trip, it was more organized, cleaner, and no more stinky-fish smell.

Cambodia is quite popular because of its Angkor Wat (temple), one of the world's wonder. In 2007, 4 million foreigners came to see this temple (where Angelina Jolie filmed her movie, 'Tomb Raider').

For those who are yet to visit this country, let me give you a glimpse of the place...

A view from outside the gate. An elephant-sized push-cart maneuvered by a woman. An interesting local vehicle that is used to transport exported goods.

Patient men, with empty carts, waiting for deliveries back to Cambodia.

Another interesting vehicle! A custom-made over-sized truck. You think the size is too big for its wheels? I thought so, too.

Now, we have crossed the border. We are now inside Cambodia. More carts and diligent people to see!

Two of the many policemen stationed in many corners to watch out for illegal activities.

Men, young and old, are on the busy street to work from dawn till dusk. Here, you see a father and his two sons. What about school, pa?

I pray these men will soon hear the verse that says "Come to me those who are tired and heavily-laden, and I will give you rest".

A lady selling roasted chestnuts. She seemed OK balancing a not-so-heavy load on her head. No one would notice, though, that she's carrying a basket, full of chestnuts, on each hand! What a hardworking woman!

At the end of the long, hot day's labor, Cambodians still have their time to play! Here, in the middle of the road, at around sunset, men are playing a kind of local game. Hopefully, there's always a kind of play for every family in this country at the end of the day.

Photos By: RSM May 2009