Saturday, June 26, 2010

Discovering Daily Grace

“I was with God all day. He was with me when I woke up at 5:30am to greet the sun. He was with me when a generous, disabled man had a wrench and fixed the car’s flat tire, on our way to catch the ferry. He was with us when we missed our 10am ferry, only to find out a 10:45 am special, only for that day. He was with us when we met the priests in Catalina Island, getting there after a mishap. He was with me when I got lost in a postcard shop, and located my companions not much later in a restaurant by the sea, when the cellphones did not work. He was with us when we took a chance to drive with an ailing tire yet, got home safely. God was with me and all four priests, all day and night. ” - Fr. Camilo Pacanza

When I heard this story from Fr. Camilo, I enjoyed it so much, I retold the story over and over. I realized that my faith in God is equally strong. I expect abundance now that my dreams will come true, if I work hard to fulfill my dreams, one step at a time.
But, I did not expect God to make things right: from the flat tire, to the special ferry ride to Catalina Island, down to even the ailing car tire which still managed to bring Fr. Camilo and his companion priests home.

He related it with such gusto -- I still could not imagine how he greeted the sun, how the sun’s rays touched his face and warmed his heart to say Mass and still be able to drive for an in traffic, passing over the St. Tomas Bridge (the same bridge where folks lose their way, as the tale goes).

Yet, Fr. Camilo and Fr. Rodel and two other priests found their way to see Catalina Island, and Fr. Camilo’s dream came true.

How does one acquire such a deep faith -- believing that with God, anything is for the asking? C, a friend, told me that he/she had stopped asking because everything she's asked has been given. She is grateful for each breath and each day. She is a successful woman, and sometimes, gives away portions of business profits, as gifts to the community.

Not J. J is a loving mother of a teenager, who recently lost her fiancĂ©. She works hard at two jobs, her hospital career job and a business she created to share her skills. One Sunday mass, she shared her prayer: to have a God-loving man as her life’s companion. After mass, she drove home. At a stoplight, she glanced to her right, and the driver of another car smiled. She smiled back. Off to another stop. The same driver followed her and smiled a second time. He then rolled down the windows, “ Are you J who went to this church sometime ago? “

She was surprised. How can he know this about her past? “ You were wearing this ribbon-accented dress, ” he said. “He paid attention to my dress? He is that much into me? God, are you answering my prayers, now? That was just minutes ago," she thought. “Indeed! For J and her newly ‘bumped into friend’ are ‘slowly’ dating, building up to a long-term relationship! To her friends, she said, “ Be careful what you pray for, for they will just manifest! “

Yes, “Ask and it will be given!“

I shared my own prayers with J 33 years ago: to find a smart, intelligent, loving, community-oriented spouse. I told J that God gave me that spouse and he is all those things. But, since I did not ask God to give me a man who will not try my patience, and God knows I have no patience, He gave me a spouse who pushes my buttons -- for my patience, anger or frustration to reveal themselves each time.

I have a choice though, whether to let God's grace be revealed in me or not.

Here is what happens. When I choose to be unforgiving, when I choose to react to my husband’s naughtiness, I literally lose all of God’s grace for almost two weeks -- no parking spaces in any buildings I drive to, exchanging pleasantries with cranky folks, appointments cancelled, inability to write, a power struggle with nasty and dishonest folks, pipes breaking -- all in succession.

If I choose patience and love to be, I receive more grace: available parking spaces, errands done smoothly, strangers to connect to and to share stories with, an inspired writing day, a manifestation of blessings and invitations from friends. It feels like a glorious, spring day -- perfect for high tea and scones!

When I chose to give love and compassion, I get more of the same. It takes work to be all that, all the time: to be loving, affectionate and to harvest the goodness in folks, rather than their weak points.

But, in turn, God’s sacred space is what I consciously operate from -- away from an unconscious, reactive, difficult life which creates tensions and frustrations. My husband jokingly says that God has a sense of humor, that he was given to me for God’s purpose -- to create more patience in me! We laugh, hug and simply just be!

It is time to let God in -- like a fresh wind, or a ray of sunshine, warm on one’s cheeks, or a Good Samaritan who changes Fr. Rodel’s car tire, or when a human GPS points the way for others. Yes, we are all connectors, but we must choose His love to manifest in our daily actions.

Ask and it will be given! Thank you, Fr. Camilo and Fr. Rodel, and May God bless Immaculate Heart of Mary Church with more blessings, and with renovated structures, to last seven generations, in time for its Jubilee!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Creating New Memories on Birthdays and Celebrations!

Felisa Buado Delacruz, surrounded by her first born, Enrique and her youngest born, CJ on her 94th birthday. A great gift to her is to have her children's company and her grandchildren. For her birthday, I made her a heart-shaped coconut leche flan. Recipe is below. Yes, that is a huge ube gelato on top of a halo-halo at Jeepney Asia Grill in Cerritos, California.
A summer of 2010's harvest, directly from the farmer's market: heirloom tomatoes, blackberries, white peach, yellow sweet corn, yellow zucchini, green beans, apricots, cherries and okra in the middle. The best dinner that got a thumbs up consisted of steamed artichokes with aioli, yellow corn, okra and Vietnamese basa cooked with dill, olive oil, herbs de provence and cherry tomatoes. It was light, satisfying in terms of flavors and ended with fresh cherries and blackberries as dessert.
Independence Day Celebration hosted by the Philippine Consulate at the Rizal Hall, it was simple and austere, but full of camaraderie. Those in attendance, from left: Enrique Delacruz, myself, Sion Abarquez-Ferrer, John Davis, a former Bayanihan dancer whose name escapes me, Zen Lopez and Charina Vergara, the birthday Independence Girl!
It was Carmen's birthday. Instead of joining her for a birthday dinner that she and her sister usually cooked for her family and some of the folks in the neighborhood, we decided to surprise her: a lei to crown her Queen for the day, a platter of sushi, two platters of assorted barbecue, seafood and vegetables from Salakot. Folks dropped in and had their photos with her. She was elated and her family treated her to another surprise dinner at a Silverlake restaurant. In all, two surprises in a day! Everyone wore a sticker which said " We heart Carmen " and of course, Carmen had a sticker which said " it's my birthday ! ", simple celebrations with such depth of affection made it so so special!


Coconut Leche Flan using Azukar Organics' Coconut Milk Powder


1 tablespoon of Sugar
1 can of condensed milk
6 egg yolks
1/2 can of water, with 2 tablespoons of Azucar Organics' coconut milk powder added


Caramelize over low flame one tablespoon of sugar in a mold. It will first dissolve and then, after awhile turn into brown color. Set aside to cool down to form a glaze. Then, break 6 eggs, take the yolks only. Set aside the egg whites for future use ( be careful not to keep more than two days in the fridge, as egg whites can go bad ).

Mix the egg yolks and 1 can of Lechera Brand condensed milk. I use Lechera as it is less sweet than the other brands. Then, after emptying the can of condensed milk, fill it with water, up to half of the container, then, add two tablespoons of Azukar Organics' dried coconut milk powder. Stir it until dissolved and add to the egg yolk/condensed milk mixture. Do not overmix, as it introduces too much air bubbles.

Strain the mixture to make sure it is a very fine, smooth mixture. Pour the mixture into the brown glazed mold of caramelized sugar. Double wrap with foil to ensure no water or unnecessary steam can get in to spoil the texture and create bubbles or indentations.

Then, prepare the double boiler or steam bath. Steam the mold, now covered with foil, double layers for complete coverage, and over boiling water for about 45 minutes. Cool in the fridge, keep it there for at least 24 hours before unmolding.

Voila, the rest is perfection, a perfect heart-shaped leche flan that got a thumbs up from Carmen, the Queen of Pico who has platinum palate, she said " it has the right texture, flavor and so smooth! " And the best part, all of the leche flan was eaten up by Felisa on her birthday, she had three servings all to herself and today, June 22, 2010, a whole plate of coconut leche flan disappeared in less than 15 minutes. Now, that is good if I may so, based on how fast folks ate it and how they wanted more servings.

Tomorrow, I am supposed to deliver another batch for friends to snack on. I was asked why? Because Josephine started the circle of kindness when one evening, unbeknowst to me, she hands me a package of Sarangani Bay Marinated Bangus. I fried it the other evening when we could not figure out what to eat and we paired it with fresh tomatoes, fresh cucumbers and steamed green beans, with seasoned rice vinegar. Oh my, what a meal! But, then, I was still asked if Josephine gave you the bangus, how come other women got the leche flan?

Why? Because kindness is about paying it forward, it is multiplied exponentially that way when something is given out of affection, not out of expecting something in return, not a currency for getting benefits, but a currency of love for others! I learned that from Josephine and Carmen and I am simply passing it forward! In passing it forward, my summer feels abundant in grace and unexpected surprises!!

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Canyon that intimidated Me!

This is me, working my earnest with kettle bells with a great trainer, QN, who keeps me motivated, not by guilt, but by reminding me of my worth, of my value, of my family and how I want to keep up with them. He also motivates me by reminding me of his worth, of how he does not just pick up any client, only those who value themselves to work themselves to a higher level of wellness and a better quality of life. His work ethic is legendary, he walks in on time, and works us to a full sweat at the end of an hour!
The 25 pound kettle bell I am holding for strength and endurance training, two weeks ago. Now, I am doing a 35 pound kettle bell for strength, and still 25 pound for endurance training, with short 30 second rest.
Wildflowers at the top greet me when I get to the peak of the canyon! I could not reach the peak of this canyon three months ago. I felt like my jaw would drop as I could not breathe as I walked uphill. Now, I can walk uphill, still with some difficulty, but not with jarring headaches, and not with a chest about to burst. Now, I know what it feels to be fit, to have stamina to reach the top! That is what a winner does, overcome challenges, step by step, until the peak is reached. Just so you know, this blog memorializes what I am doing for my health, and also to join the national program started by the First Lady of the United States, called " Let's Move Program."
Runners and Joggers that I have left in the dust! I never thought I can get to this point in my life, overcome obstacles, overcome my fear of heights, in favor of being outdoors, sweaty, and enjoying the beauty of Los Angeles' canyons and hills. I am so grateful to God when I reach the top! Why? Years ago, I could not even get to half of this canyon, without feeling like my lungs would burst, but after working out with kettle bells with an incredible trainer, I am making so much progress, it is so so motivating!
Yellow wildflowers - they symbolize the rising sun, hope for change, just like the colors of the Liberal Party, of our soon to be installed President of the Philippines, NoyNoy Aquino!

Victory, I reached the peak, the top, and I had a clear view of the city or somewhat smoggy view of the city. My shirt reads Health Care Reform, check!