Friday, February 26, 2016


Cymbidiums on a dark-stained table

Reflection is the soft image that is bounced back from a shiny surface. The reflection is usually seen on the side of the object that is exposed to the light. Unlike a shadow which is seen on the the darker side of the object. Reflections show details such as color and depth.  Shadows on the other hand, show a silhouette - it does not inform as well as a reflection mainly because of direction of insufficient light.

The Tower Bridge over the Sacramento River

There is another form of reflection which happens in the depths of our thoughts. The kind of reflection when we try to bring the past one more time into our minds -- usually with the intention to see things we failed to notice and to emphasize the obvious - in order to broaden that experience through things we see anew from different angles and perspectives.

During this last couple of weeks, in anticipation of our wedding anniversary, Tim and I have been reflecting on our marriage and life in general.  From our retrievable memory and between the two of us, we see God's hands at work throughout our lives - even way before we met each other.  He was always there guiding us, prodding us, protecting us, and stopping us when necessary to bring us to where we are right now.  Like the reflected image of the Tower bridge, it is not sharp but all the evidences are there and it is easily recognizable.  Tim and I have a high-definition image of God in our marriage.  Sometimes the waters are rough and the reflections look blurry and distorted shadows. But when we make it a habit to keep still, observe, and to be aware of our position against the Light, we can establish the image that defies seasons and motions in our minds. And through faith, we
know that He's always there; that we are not alone even when the sky is gray and the water is murky.

"Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will
give you insight into all this."
2 Timothy 2:7

Shorebirds on the rice fields (Dewitt Farms)

Still there is a third kind of reflection that is more active in nature than the ones mentioned earlier.  It is the kind that we exude as a result of what goes on within us.  We portray things we believe through our actions.  This might be considered more difficult because we are physically involved in the making of that reflection.  But then again, it is an expression of freedom in itself.  This is the reflection that tells the world who we are.  It announces what are we passionate about.  It is like looking at your friends on Facebook - you get an inkling of what constitute their thoughts and consumes their time and resources based on what they put on their timeline.  What is that soft image that the world see of you? 

"As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart."   

Proverbs 27:19

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Silver Milestone

On February 23, 1991, Tim and I made a vow to each other to love and cherish...till death do as part. Today we reached a significant milestone in this journey. It is our 25th anniversary!   Twenty five years is a long time. Let's see: we raised three children - two of them now on adulthood category and one in high school but snarky enough to be an adult. :)

Transience and Permanence. There are things that we have seen and experienced over and over again.   And yet there are new things that we both have to learn and experience on a daily basis.  On a Facebook post today, Tim appropriately referred to me as his "fellow traveler".  Indeed we are just traveling here in this life.  As we move further on this journey, change travels with us in a similar tempo.  We are changing, people and things around us are changing.  Our thoughts, dreams and ways are constantly adjusting to such changes. But there are two things that remain constant in this marriage - our dependence/devotion to God and our commitment to each other. Both things require regular evaluation and examination of our internals (desires and motives) and spirituals (guidance/accountability). It is hard work.  We fail and get up again.  As we get to spend more time with each other, we are also learning to integrate our years of experiences with the present-day affairs.  That alone cannot be learned without going through this ride called marriage.

If I were to give one piece of advise to my newly married self... 
Helen:  "Snap-shots are dangerous things to draw conclusions from. Do not define the marriage by one time events." 
Tim:  "The moment you realize you are maintaining your rights or trying not to be taken advantage of in an argument with your spouse, is the moment to give in."

We got to this point all because God is gracious to us...

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Valentine's Day

It's Valentine's Day.  Miriam and I get to spend it alone together because Tim is on one of those business trips to Taiwan.  So far we went to church, had lunch (Chicken Marsala on Rice), watched television, had some Apple Turnovers for dessert,  She is drawing as I write this post and then we'll go shopping.

Valentine's Day is not something that we celebrate with nostalgia in this house.  However, it is a significant day for me because it was on this day in the Philippines when God gave me the first hint about who Tim would become in my life.  I shrugged it off at first but soon after Valentines Day of that year - 1989 his actions began to differentiate and then I began to react.  And the writing of a love story commenced - which up to this time, continues to be written.

Happy Valentine's Day Everyone!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Breakfast with Friends

Some things Sue found that reminded her of me.

Almost a month past my last birthday, and my friend Sue and I finally got around celebrating together. And even better because this time we brought our husbands with us.  Yes, Tim and Ueli went out with us to have breakfast at Early Toast.  We had a great time just catching up -  on life, work and children.  

Every birthday between Sue and I for more than ten years now, we made sure we did something together.  I can still remember one birthday of mine when we went to a nursery.  Sue saw that I was fascinated by the miniature succulents and she bought me three 2" pots of different varieties.  Those plants marked the beginning of a frenzy collection of succulents which subsided over time.  Today, I still have clones of the same succulents growing in my yard.  I also remember a year when I surprised her with a mystery party at my house where I invited several of her friends whom I have not met before. I had to enlist my whole family and some of her friends to make it happen the way it did!  Our children were much younger but they played key roles in the event. (Someday, I will look through my files and pull out some of the pictures.)  Who knows what we will do in the future.  

"Friendship is always a sweet responsibility, never an opportunity."  ~ Khalil Gibran

Friday, February 5, 2016


"You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God" 2 Cor. 9:11
Generosity is a simple but often misinterpreted word.  Some of us think that whenever we give we are being generous.  Whenever we serve to do something for a church ministry.  When we give sandwiches to the homeless, drop a few coins to the beggar who sits by the steps at the trains station, drop some dollar bills to the offering basket, or donate a few rolls of paper towel to your kid's classroom and we think that we are being generous.   True generosity demands sacrifice and result. Generosity is measured by the extent of pain and discomfort it causes the giver (as the woman who gave all she had)  as a measure of the faith Generosity is voluntary - giving up something we value to meet someone's need without expectation of repayment.

Self-preservation hinders generosity.  Why is it that we give only when it is comfortable.  We stop giving when it begins to hurt.  God never fails to acknowledge any generous act that we do to those who are in need. He said in Matthew... that when we give to the least of these then we are doing it to Him.  But we are so focused on our own comfort that we miss the point of generosity.  We set our thermostat to allow no discomfort at all. When we give, we  reserve enough to secure our status quo. We give when it does not endanger our situation because we trust our lives in the things we own or have control over.

Generosity is a function of faith.  We can only give generously when we know the One who gives and takes away.  But we have to take the plunge first.  Tim and I have experienced countless times when we gave something that made my heart beat a little faster - when my faithlessness is determined to dictate my actions - but we decided to anyway.  It has been a consistent experience for us that God provided far more than we could ever had the guts to give, in ways we'd never imagined.

Generosity is for the rich.  The problem is we measure rich by an abundant excess of wealth and resources sitting doing nothing in bank accounts and other material possessions.  We say, Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg can afford to be philanthropic because they are billionaires.  And we should be beneficiaries to their charitable projects because we are not like them.  But richness is far more than money.  Health, relationships, experiences, skills, knowledge, time, your personality, just to name a few.   As the bible says,  "You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion."  We are given a lot to be generous - in every occasion. Consider yourself as the funnel of goodness to the world in your immediate surroundings.  Let the blessings flow and watch how God pours his blessings.  We are all rich who rely on the Source.  We may not have the same wealth but we are all rich through God.

Acts of generosity generate thanksgiving.  Somewhere along the line, the name of God will be glorified because His people whom He provides abundantly were generous.  The goodness of God will be known to more people because His people believed that God is enough when generosity was required.  We have to practice generosity.  And just like aerobic exercise do to our hearts, generosity makes our faith stronger and less dependent on material things. Our sufficiency comes from the Lord.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Meyer Lemon and Yogurt Panna Cotta

For my birthday this year, I received a Williams-Sonoma Dessert of the Day Cookbook from my sister-in-law.  In this cookbook is a recipe for each day of the year.  Yes, that's correct!  A different dessert everyday because we eat dessert that fast! :)  Seriously now -- to have a recipe for each day of the year, one must have taken into account the ingredients that are in season.  I hope.  For example, this time of year lemons are abundant in our yard - between our small Meyer lemon tree and the huge Eureka lemon, we have a lot of lemons.  And I always prefer using ingredients from my own garden.  

So the first recipe I tried from this book was very much enjoyed in this house, especially Miriam and Tim.  It is  refreshing and easy to prepare.  There's hardly ever any cooking involved.  It can be done a day or two in advance.  Here's a list of the ingredients and steps.  

Step 1.  Gelatin Mixture
2 packets unflavored powdered gelatin
1 cup water
Sprinkle on 1 cup cold water.  Set aside.

Step 2.  Sugar Mixture
1/2 cups sugar
4 Meyer lemon zest strips
1 cup water 
Put ingredients in a sauce pan. Stir ingredients and warm over medium heat just until sugar is dissolved.  Remove from the heat and whisk in gelatin mixture.

Step 3.  Lemon, cream and yogurt
1 1/4 cups Meyer lemon juice
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt
Whisk lemon juice, cream and yogurt together until smooth.  Mix with gelatin mixture.  Remove zest strips.  Pour into 8 small cups or ramekins.  Cover with saran wrap and chill for 4 hours to overnight.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Tim Speaks at Church Again

Just for the record, Tim preached yesterday because our pastor was on vacation with his wife celebrating their anniversary.  Based Luke 9:37-50, he came up with a topic entitled “Avoiding the Epic Fail”.  He talked about the deeper roots of man’s (especially Jesus’ followers) failures and the simple yet requiring life-change ways to avoid them.  Basically, his message says that if your goal in life is to glorify yourself then you are bound to fail.  And on the flip side - if your life is marked with desires to glorify God then you are in for an epic success.

How easily we all get blinded by personal glory.  No one is exempt.  We are all in a fierce pursuit of glory and position. As I sat and listen to him I realized that even being a parent of young children involved such ambitions.  It reminds me how I took so much pride when people complemented me and my husband for having good-mannered children.  But now I can look back on those days and say it was purely by grace.

Anyway, Tim did well using illustrations and analogies that are computer programming related.  He is better off using those illustrations because he's an expert in that department and who else sees better parallels?  The one that demonstrated this sermon clearly was "priority inversion".  It is a type of bug in programming and it parallels well with an important bug that infects spiritual life.