¡Feliz aniversario!

Also known as: Seriously, I don’t need to put this line, really.

I have several posts lined up for posting/writing in this blog, but all of them would have to wait because this is more important! :)

This day one year ago, I went to Europe to join World Youth Day in Madrid.

YFC/SFC WYD 2011 Team
Our only complete group photo, with Kuya Marlon. :) Hola, YFC/SFC WYD 2011 Team! :) (Photo credit: Sol)

Sometimes I still can’t believe that I can actually say/write that. Sometimes, it still feels like a dream.

But the rest of the time, whenever I remember the 16 days I spent traipsing around Europe, seeing the Pope, participating in World Youth Day events, meeting new friends and people I will keep for life, I smile and remember this line I wrote in my blog post that summed up my Europe series:

I am loved by a God who delights in making dreams come true.

How awesomely amazing is that?

Last year, I didn’t know how much this trip would change me, how much it would teach me of the grandness of God’s love. Interestingly, remembering all of it now is helping me face the things that I am facing right now. It’s funny how the answers to some of the questions you ask are the things you’ve already known for a long time.  Let me repeat it once again (more for me, really):

I am loved by a God who
delights in making dreams come true.

If you’re my Twitter friend or my Facebook friend, please excuse me if I tweet/post about Europe memories because…well, it’s fun. And I really, really do miss Europe, and everyone I met there. And if you want to go down memory lane with me, here are the posts!

I think I understand now how some people keep on joining WYD every time it happens: it’s expensive and tiring and crazy but being there changes you. There’s really just something about it that makes it such an exciting event to save for, sacrifice for and experience. So you bet that I am starting to pray and save for WYD 2013. :) By God’s grace, see you next year Rio de Janeiro!

If you were also in Madrid for last year’s World Youth Day, then let me extend my greeting to you: ¡Feliz aniversario! :)

Would you tell me how could it be any better than this?

Also known as: I am loved by a generous God who delights in fulfilling my dreams :)
Missed the other Europe entries? Here they are: WYD1, WYD2, WYD3, WYD4, Madrid, Geneva, Paris, Vienna

This time three months ago, I just got home after an amazing two weeks in a place I only dreamed of going to. It’s been three months, but sometimes it felt like a dream, and sometimes it hits me out of the blue that I still can’t believe it happened. To me.

Every time I pray in the morning, I look back at my journal entries for this year and I smile every time I see my prayers for Europe in my handwriting. Please bring us to WYD. Please let us go to Madrid. Please give us our visa. Please help us fix our papers. Please give us airfare. Please, please, please bring us to Europe. Blessed John Paul II, pray for us. So many prayers, so many masses, so many sacrifices. And God was generous enough to hear it and give it to us. To me.

I still don’t know what I did to deserve all of it.

Back when I was still fixing my documents for my visa, I was planning to submit this essay to answer this question in the information sheet: Why do you want to attend WYD 2011? They said we can attach extra pages if needed, so I thought of writing a longer explanation, even if I never really got to submit it. I was reading through it earlier while thinking of this entry and I thought I would share the last paragraph:

I’d like to believe that this time, I’m better prepared to go to WYD. Maybe the “no” I thought God told me before wasn’t really a “no” but really a “wait”. I learned during my job hunt a few years ago that God sometimes makes us wait before He gives us what we ask for because He wants us to experience His blessings in a fuller sense, as well as prepare us in all aspects so we would be able to receive the blessing well. This time, I think I am more financially able to support myself for WYD, I am more prepared in terms of requirements, I have more focus and I have a bigger reason to attend this event. It may not be as big or as noble as others, but I’d like to believe that God delights in His people when they go out of their comfort zones and try reaching higher than they ever reached before, and this is me doing just that. Maybe this time, God will finally give me a “Yes.”

What a humongous YES that was, don’t you think? :) It’s been three months, and I’m surprised I’m still having a hard time writing about this because I should have digested it all now. I should have. But I still get overwhelmed with just how good God is. How awesome and how generous He is. And how blessed I am to be loved by such a good and generous God.

There’s really no doubt about it — my Europe trip could not be possible if it weren’t for God’s generosity. And when you know and believe and have seen that fact, how can you even say no to Him?

It’s been three months since Europe, and I still say thank You to Him. I also thank Him for new friends, new brothers and sisters and for all the experiences I had on that amazing two weeks. I know that maybe five, ten years from now (or even next year), there will probably be some other experience that will top this one (especially since I know God delights in surprising His children!), but I will never ever forget these amazing two weeks in August when I was drenched in God’s awesome grace and generosity. I dared to dream and He just didn’t dare to give — He gave SO much that I cannot help but be blown away. If He can grant a dream like this, can you imagine what else He is willing to give?

So as I end my Europe series, allow me to quote Lifehouse and say sing: Would you tell me how could it be any better than this? :)

I am loved by a God who delights in making dreams come true.

And He loves you, too. :)

Danke, Vienna!

Also known as: Vienna, where we became missionaries

I have a confession to make: I think that out of all places I went to in Europe, Vienna was the one I got to experience the least, in terms of doing touristy stuff or photo opportunities and all that. Looking back at my photos, I realized that I hardly had any photos of myself there, save for some I took of myself when I just woke up (I know, lame).

I can only attribute this to two things:

  1. Traveling is stressful. Going from one country to another with only a few days in between (and it’s not even rest) is exhausting, so by the time I got to Vienna, I still wanted to sleep. Since I did not sleep for the night before I flew, I was completely knocked out during the plane ride and I was tired for most of the day.
  2. Vienna was really more of the mission place than a tourist place, unlike how the visits to Geneva and Paris had been. So this is really where the term “mission trip” comes to reality. We actually had something to do here.

Oh, and one more thing: our last day in Vienna was “stolen” by a 13 hour train ride from Vienna back to Geneva. So…there.

But the short time I was in Vienna to do the mission was quite enlightening. It was my very first time to go on mission, because whenever I wanted to join mission trips back in college, I always couldn’t join because classes in my university started too early. So I had to adjust my mind set when I got to Vienna that I was there for a mission and not just a tourist.

But much thanks to our hosts, SFC Vienna, for making us do touristy stuff while we were there, though. :)

When we left Paris, it was raining and it was so cold, so I was sort of prepared for a cold Vienna, too. Nope. The weather played tricks on us again and it was terribly hot in Vienna. Kuya Glenn fetched us together with his two girls, Gwyneth and Gré, and after brunch, our first tourist stop was The Schönbrunn Palace Garden Gloriette:

At the entrance
Walking to the palace

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