The Little Girl Who Fell In Love With The Game

If you are young, promise me you will not turn your passion into an obligation. If you are old and have lost your fire, promise me you will do everything to get it back. If you are on fire and doing what you were created for, promise me you will influence others to do the same.

I think there are two ways to die before you leave this world. One is to stop doing work that you’re passionate about (in the positive sense of the word, e.g. you’re not doing drugs or selling it), two is to turn it into an obligation and eventually lose the fire and joy in doing it. I don’t know which one is worse but I think I’ve experienced both.

Continue reading “The Little Girl Who Fell In Love With The Game”


reflections on my first third swimming lesson

I used to ice skate 3 to 4 times per week. That was way back, 20 years ago. I stopped some 13 years ago. Never got into another sport since then. I also stopped taking jazz classes (which I used to take to complement figure skating). I tried to get back to skating a number of times but it was too difficult (and expensive and risky and impractical) I tried to get into swimming, but it was short lived. I thought about trying aerial silk. I never got past imagining my first class.

Then yesterday came. This must be a breakthrough. I had my first third swimming lesson.

First third. Yes. Yesterday was the first day of my third swimming class. The first class I took was when I was a kid. Six years old maybe. The second one was three years ago. This was the third one. The coach put me in advanced class. Seriously? Advanced? I had been a bit frustrated with my freestyle skills for the past 3 years. (Yeah it can go on for three years if you don’t do much about it.) But yesterday, I was so happy.

I enrolled in a 10 consecutive week days class. I never thought I’d commit to swimming this often but it just happened. It felt right. And so it was! I couldn’t be happier. And I realized I had been torturing myself for the past 13 years for not replacing the sport I lost.

I even wrote a poem about grieving its death. Yeah, I wrote a poem about losing my figure skating dream as if it were a person. Because it felt like something precious died when I stopped figure skating. I didn’t realize it immediately after I stopped, but it set in slowly. It was difficult to admit that I loved it that much. I mean, I can’t exactly make a career out of it because I was not that skilled in the sport yet, but it had also become too expensive and difficult for someone my age. (It’s a high impact sport. I had scoliosis. It’s an expensive sport. I was not filthy rich. Etc.)

Then life happened and it was kind of, sad.

I did a bit of yoga via YouTube. I downloaded some dance videos. I tried HIIT at home. But nothing beats a good ol’ sport. 🙂

Yesterday, my new coach corrected my freestyle technique. I finally felt like I was doing it correctly. For the first time in 13 years, I felt like I had a sport again. It’s like I could be alive again. I know it sounds silly, but that’s how I felt. At three decades old, I realized sometimes there are things we find hard to admit but admitting it could be the first step to breakthrough and healing. I think, today, I realized I needed to admit how I felt about figure skating. I also realized how I can’t run away from how I’m wired for sports. Just ‘coz I can’t make a career out of it does not mean I’m not allowed to make it a major part of my life. I guess I found it difficult to value something that doesn’t earn money. It felt irresponsible to do so. But I also realize now that acknowledging how I’m wired is a step towards worshipping God. It’s part of acknowledging how unique he’s made me to be and how I should love how he fashioned me. And I know ultimately, it will bring Him glory.

So YES YES, I can’t wait to swim again tomorrow. Ten consecutive weekdays remember? And to go on some more after that.

Christian blogBy the way, I’ll tell you about my 4-, 6-, and 9-year old swimming classmates next time. I didn’t enrol in a one-on-one class! And my oldest classmate is 9 years old. I know right? What do you think eh? 🙂

How I Was Set Free from 6 Lies I Struggled With as a Child

(I know that “6” is not a “nice” number but let’s just stick to it.)

When we were born, we were full of hunger and excitement to breathe in and partake of an unlimited adventure upon popping out of a safe, comfortable, but dark world inside mom’s womb. All of a sudden out of water and darkness in our mommy’s tummy, we burst out into a world of sun, colors, shapes, textures, faces—shocked, smiling, or amazed, and 1001 flavors of ice cream. We come out believing that as long as our stomachs are well fed, we can do anything. We were superheroes in our play places, conquering giant pillows and traversing mountains of toys.

Then came fear, because our parents had to protect us from bugs. Then came pressure, because our teachers had to protect our future. Then came rejection, because people had to protect themselves from us. We grow out of childhood innocence into a complicated, self-automated protective default we sometimes called wisdom, or so we think it is.

Growing up is not all that bad though. But despite the good things we learn, we also learn some bad things, things we find ourselves trying to unlearn the rest of our lives. Then again, it doesn’t have to take that long.

Today is my birthday and I want to say “Thank you God for freedom from lies.” Here are the ones I’ve said goodbye to. And believe I will uproot more lies as I go further in my walk. To 33 years and beyond!

1. The vampire is out to get me.

I don’t remember who first introduced me to the “vampires.” Sesame Street’s Count Dracula does not seem harmful but for some reason I grew up dreading nightmares and encountering vampires in my dreams. (They were not yet the romantic protagonists we have now. They were villains during my time and I believe they still are.) I used to pray each and every night before I go to bed specifically asking God to not let any bad dream come in, especially vampire thoughts. I would sleep with lights switched on and made sure my palms were facing downward because of the scary TV episode I watched where something really bad happened to the hands of the characters and their palms were faced upward when that happened. Every prayer worked even though most of them were neurotic prayers.

I prayed neurotic prayers for a long time. But then, a shift came when I asked God to take away the spirit of fear in my life. Soon, I could stay brave in the middle of a bad dream. I can walk alone in the dark. I sleep with the lights switched off now.

2. I am ugly especially if I put headband on.

negative self image?

“Self Image”

When I was around 7 years old, I tried a headband on in front of the mirror and thought it made me look worse instead of better, not like the way it made other girls pretty. Then, I realized whatever I did with my hair, I still look ugly. Then, I realized it’s because I’m ugly and there isn’t much that can be done!!!

When I was in kindergarten, my teacher went around the room to complement each student with one adjective each. I was expecting she’d say I was pretty but she said it to some other girl instead. She said I was “intelligent.” I didn’t know what “intelligent” meant so I was disappointed.

when I was in 3rd grade - around 10 years old. i still wore the headband after all!

“When I Was 9”

When I was in seventh grade, I was nominated to represent our class in our school’s beauty contest because all the pretty girls had represented their previous class already years before. I felt some hope that even though I’m just the nth choice, I still made it to the options list. But it was not what others thought that changed the way I see myself. You see, no matter what people say, I saw the same ugly face in the mirror. But this changed when God began to heal my self rejection problem. One day, it was as if I no longer saw the “ugly face” and saw something different… it’s the same face but this time the girl looks pretty. I realized it was my vision that had to change, not the face, but my belief.

3. I can’t sing beautifully. I sing out of tune and that’s how it will remain.

I grew up with people saying I can’t sing, that out of six cousins, I was one of the two who should recite poems instead. And so, during summer workshop, I joined a reading workshop instead of music or acting or those things I liked. I got so bored reading.

Then one time while I was in a worship-prayer gathering, I felt God burn a passionate desire in my heart to write songs. I thought myself, “I’M SCREWED.”

Rick Warren’s book “Purpose Driven Life” became very popular around that time. The book said something like (and I might be harshly paraphrasing this due to the extreme effect it had on me when I read it), “…forget about pursuing something that is in your “heart” only but you have no “hands” to do.” It said that it has to be both “hands” and “heart” and not just one of those two. “Hands” represented capability, talent, ability, skill… I hated that paragraph and I didn’t finish the book because of that chapter. I told God, “If this dream is from you, you better make it clear and make it work because I don’t know how it’s gonna happen and I’m gonna die of frustration if I burn with this desire without pursuing it.”

Now, I can sing. I have written a few songs. And if I were Rick Warren’s editor, I’d ask him to revise that part of the book. There is something more powerful than “skill” and it is “love.” Music, for me is an expression of my love for God and nothing can keep me from giving him the songs he deserves. Even lack of skill or talent can be overcome for the sake of love.

let's jump to freedom.“Let’s Jump to Freedom”

Aside from these three, there are a handful of other things…

4. Like that belief that theater and communication arts is only for extroverts. I am an introvert and I took a scary risk when I joined a drama class in college. Until now, it is still my most enjoyed class throughout college, next to Great Books which talked about classics like Dante’s Inferno.

5. Then there’s the lie that I can’t get into Computer Science because I’m not techie or geeky. I realized later than ANYTHING, absolutely anything can be learned if you want to.

6. And there’s the lie that God cannot fill the void in my heart and match the intensity of emotion I feel — something that comes out as an obsession with thought of falling in love. Hah! He did. And looking back, it LOOKED really impossible that time but what can I say, miracles happen.

Right now, a big challenge that is in front of me is starting a ____. (It’s still a big secret.) Oh yes, let me tell you about the conventional beliefs we are trying to break right now by taking this leap of faith. But that will be for another blog post.

Today, I want to thank God for freedom. The freedom to be 33 and thankful.

When It is Time


It is both good for desire to be kept waiting and for it to be fulfilled. Waiting causes fire to burn brighter and fill deeper. It enlarges longing and exposes the soul’s capacity to dream, and keep dreaming. It tests the spirit and purifies the soul. Fulfillment is God’s ultimate plan and it will satisfy and fill, saturate and soak up, until you drip with laughter and love. He will not fail to satisfy even longings undiscovered by your heart.

When to bring the waiting to an end, God knows perfectly the time. I will never trade these years of pain and joy in waiting, of longing and finding intimacy, of swift encounters with Jesus, I will not trade it for anything. But I will gladly leave it to embrace him when God finally sends him here.

When God says, “It is time,” I believe it is. And I love Him for showing me that His Time is beautiful. Even now, I know I am entangled in His Wisdom. At times I yield, at times I wrestle. But every time, I am more loved. In waiting and in fulfillment, I am loved best by God.

God Dreamed It Before You Did

Early this year or last year, a churchmate of mine prophesied that I would be going to a nation that I have been desiring to go to and that I have never been to. I was both excited and puzzled by the prophetic word. First, I wanted to go to Vietnam but I have been to Vietnam already at that time. Second, although there were many countries that I have never visited, there was none in particular that stirred my heart to visit! Could it be that the word was inaccurate? But my churchmate said he strongly sensed that word from God. Months passed and I had forgotten about the word… until this morning.

Could it be that God had thought of this city that would make me so happy to visit — a place that had I known existed, I would definitely dream of going to — and thought of bringing me there, and took the liberty of informing me through a prophetic word even before I knew that I would love to go to that city? In short, the prophetic word should have gone something like this, “Riza, God is brining you to a nation that you have never been to but you have been desiring to go to. You definitely want to go there, although you don’t know yet where it is, but God already knows that you will love it there and so He’s telling you that He is taking you there because IT IS A DESIRE OF YOUR HEART THAT YOU DON’T KNOW YET. But God already knows in advance because He knows you so well.” Wow. How crazy and wonderful and amazing is the God we serve?

I have been pondering on the truth that God knows me and the details of my heart, mind and life. But I never imagined that God would prove it to me in a way that flaunts His divine omniscience, omnipotence, and affection all at the same time.

To every poet, writer, blogger, bystander or stranger reading this post, let me assure you, you are never too intricate or complicated for God to know, comprehend and love. He knows what fulfills your deepest desires even before you could fumble for words to describe it. He has planned the best surprise for you if you will surrender your life to His hands.

By the way, the place I was referring to is Dublin City in Ireland, where God blessed me with the opportunity to travel to weeks ago. I wrote about it here. The churchmate who prophesied were actually churchmates or a couple named Philip and Lyra. God used several people to make it possible for me to go to Dublin. I am thankful for all of them!

20131031-002959.jpg(above) image credits: wendy andrews

20131031-003126.jpgthis is in athione, outside dublin city

20131031-003213.jpgat the 24-7prayer gathering venue, st mark’s church

20131031-003445.jpgat grafton street, my fave street in Dublin!


God’s love is best understood in our brokenness. His love does not change depending on how good or bad we’ve been. He loves us at our best, and at our worst. He loves our every part. He loves us to bits. Literally. He is in love with every detail of who we are. Here’s a love poem from Father God to us, His children.

Let me love you
The broken you
Not just the worshipping you
Or the ministering you
The strong you
That stands on a pedestal
Let me love you
The just you you

Let me love you
And all the pieces
The pieces strong and wild
That you are fearful men would fear
The pieces meek and fragile
That you hold cautiously with trembling
The pieces you have tucked underneath
The pieces you find hard to bear
The pieces you wished were never there
The pieces that screwed everything up
That tore everything apart
Let me love you
And all your pieces

Let me love you
Even the broken you

I put the pieces together
And I love every part
Torn, whole, sewn together,
Or breaking away
You are held together
And loved altogether
Even when you think you’re falling apart

Let me love you
Most of all, the broken you
By me, you are pieced together
And I love your every part

Photo credit:
Photo credit:

My Invisible Body Guards

As the Little Prince had said, “What is essential is invisible to the eye.” After weeks of suffering from bacteria in the blood (and are we glad they’re gone now), never in my life have I become more grateful for the things I do not see. For that thing that is invisible to my naked eye, and that thing which I don’t even think of, has become that thing which saved my life.

White Blood Cells.

For days and for weeks after seeing them in action under the microscope, and after reading about them from this blog, I couldn’t help but be perplexed at how a loving God has provided a VIP security group — a set of body guards so to speak — that  care for me even when I am least unaware.

Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps. – Psalm 121:4

Here’s a short video I made using a recording of my live blood analysis weeks ago. This was my contaminated blood. There goes my white blood cells, my red blood cells, the bacteria and everything that basically runs in my veins and arteries to keep me alive.

Background Music Credits to: Sol by Misha Meshenko

Reading about the ‘white blood cells army’ (WBC) that we have in our body made me ponder and wonder at the faithfulness of a loving Father who neither sleeps nor slumbers. The WBCs keep awake day in and day out, to attack every single foreign agent that enters our body, to keep us from getting sick, and to put us back into health every time we get sick. When we are sick, it is easy to think how pitiful it is that we are ill. But we never really thank our WBC’s for every single day that viruses or bacteria had been defeated by them just to keep us healthy. We never really thank God for every single day (or maybe some of you do) that we are well.

I couldn’t help but be amazed at how agents so tiny could be the power source of my blood’s protection from harmful stuff. I am amazed that even when I sleep, or take the bus, or jog at the oval, regardless of my thankfulness, my love, my awareness, my intentions, WBC’s war for me. And that is because God had charged them to do so. Isn’t God wonderful to create such a living testimony of his faithfulness and protection?

And did you know that WBC’s die after they have contained a virus, say, after 3 days? They go “all out,” defeat the virus, then die… Hmmm… Now that’s one other thing worth pondering on. 😉


Sometimes I feel like I’m like my friends who haven’t surrendered their life to Christ yet. I resist drawing close to God, I refuse to do spiritual things, I deliberately delay praying or reading the Bible because I just don’t want to routinely be spiritual even for just a moment. But you know, deep inside, I’m just longing to be pursued by God. And I think, or maybe, hopefully, that’s how they also feel.

It is a privilege to search for the mysteries in God. But when we walk away, we are reminded that though we look like we are drifting, inside we are bound. We are bound to His love. Sometimes we think that we have bound Him to ours and that as we work things out, we are sustained. But the opposite is true. We work things out because we are being kept by His love. And when all efforts fail, He keeps us, still.

He waits, patiently until we lose our grip on rebellion. Then He catches us to keep the covenant that we have failed to keep.

Have you seen the one I love…?