Family Additions

In a year when so much has been taken away from us, Yahweh sent two reasons to smile—Noah and Emily. 

After teasing his mommy and daddy, and the whole family for that matter, Noah Daniel Lorenzo finally met his family on Jun 2, 2021.

For maybe three days I received a text that Daddy Andrew was driving Mommy Aiden to the hospital, only to find out that Mommy Aiden was in false labor. So, when the actual time came, the text was met with some reservation. But we soon found out that Nathan finally got his little brother. 

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we got to meet Noah in person when he was close to two months old. He was still so tiny and delicate. But that sure didn’t last for long.

The next time we saw him, he was a roly-poly teddy bear—with a quick smile and sweet, friendly disposition (until he gets hungry is what we all were told). His puffy cheeks and Woodstock hairdo make him a huggable, loveable baby. 

Noah makes Lorenzo grandchild number three.

Then came Emily Ruth Espino (to Big Brother Joseph, she’s Emimy). Lorenzo grandchild number four—their Little Princess.

This Little One was also not in a hurry to officially meet her family. We all kept waiting for word that Emily had arrived. Yahweh chose October 27, 2021, as the date of her birth. From the reports, Big Brother Joseph fell in love with his baby sister the moment he met her.

We got to meet Emily a week later. She was so dainty in her little Sabbath dress. She matched her Mommy Stephanie and DaMa Ruthie. Mommy Stephanie was happy but tired. Daddy Raymond proudly snapped pictures of family carrying his Little Girl. 

Emily slept through all the noise from her visitors, while Big Brother Joseph took time out from playing to check on her. She was so tiny and delicate compared to her older cousin Noah. 

While waiting for Aiden and Stephanie to deliver, I wondered how it would be for Joseph and Nathan. They are still little guys. There really was no need to worry about them. Their parents prepared them well for the arrival of their baby siblings

It’s so cute to see Big Brother Nathan (Li’l Andrew) cradling Baby Noah (Li’l Aiden) during the AOY Children’s Memory Verse videos. And Joseph (Li’l Stephanie) holding Baby Emily (looking like Daddy Raymond with her big, beautiful eyes) and kissing her cheek. Joseph and Nathan have definitely embraced their new roles as Big Brother.

Having newborns in the family this year, a special year for my Baby—Zechariah, reminds me of the babies during some of my special years. When I graduated from high school, Rob was only two months old. Then, during my college graduation, Andrew was the baby. This year Noah was the infant when Uncle Zeek graduated from high school. 

Then Baby Emily was born during Uncle Zeek’s first semester at VCU—her own mommy, Stephanie, was getting ready to start her first year at UVA when Uncle Zeek was born. Stephanie and Ray’s “Miracle Baby” is starting her life at the time my “Miracle Baby” is starting a new chapter in his life.

As we welcome the new additions to the Lorenzo Family, we can’t help but remember our loved ones who are no longer with us—those we have lost from all four of the families joined together through marriage. 

For the Asercion family, we are still reeling over the loss of Julie earlier this year.

Emily and Noah will never get a chance to feel their Auntie Julie’s loving arms around them or hear her voice and laughter. But they will get to know of her through stories and pictures. And they, and their brothers and cousins, will learn of their great-grandparents and great uncles and aunties through our stories and pictures.

When we embark on a journey, in order to move forward, to enter new adventures, we have to leave what we have passed behind. We can take some of our past experiences with us physically. But we can take all of our past with us through our memories. Happy times to remember the blessings Yahweh has given us. Sad and hard times with the realization that Yahweh walked with us, and many times carried us, through each valley.

And for our loved ones whose journeys in this life have ended, they will forever be with us in our hearts.

These are the memories we share with Emily, with Noah, and with all the children of their generation. So, they will know who came before them and WHO will always be with them.

To Andrew and Aiden, Stephanie and Ray: I wish you many wonderful and exciting adventures as you continue your own journeys through parenthood raising your children. Tell them the stories that have shaped your lives, because through those stories you share your family legacies.

To Joseph and Nathan: You are great Big Brothers! Good job, Guys!

To Noah and Emily: Welcome to our family! You are blessed to have wonderful parents and grandparents. I will pray that every moment of your lives you will feel the love of Yahweh and Yeshua, and that of all your family, those present and those in eternity.

Today is your Great-Papa Paul’s birthday. He and Great-Mama Fe will be so happy to meet you one day in Heaven.

Thank you, Yahweh, for bringing these two bundles of joy into our lives.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.” ~James 1:17, NIV


Hope in the Valley: Remembering Julie

I received a greatly anticipate phone call on the evening of November 27, 1995. My brother-in-law Donald told me that my baby sister, Miriam, was in labor. They were on their way to the hospital for the delivery of their second child. 

Once Zee got me to the hospital, I raced to the Labor and Delivery floor. But I was too late. As I entered the delivery room, I was greeted by the cries of the newest member of the Rodil family—Julia Carmen. I immediately fell in love with her.

Miriam and Donald gave me the distinct honor to be Julie’s “Ninang” (godmother). To her older sister Kristin, and later to her younger sister Lindsey, I was “Yaya.” To Julie I would be known as “Ninang Yaya.”

I have so many memories of Julie.

Memories of Baby Julie. Like her hair. It stayed at a short length for a while. And it was so even, as if it were cut. But when her hair finally grew out, Julie had the most beautiful curls.

Memories of preschooler Julie coming to our house with Kristin. Even though I was her Ninang Yaya, Julie was closer to Uncle Zee. She liked coming home with us after church. Uncle Zee would hide to make her think he left without her. When Julie found him, she would stick close to him so he wouldn’t forgot to take her home with us.

Memories of Julie and our dog Peppermint. Uncle Zee brought our new puppy to meet Kristin and Julie, who was about three years old. Recently, Kristin reminded me that Julie asked, “Did you buy her for me?” Interestingly, Julie was afraid of Peppermint. She would sit on her Uncle Zee’s shoulders, lifting up her legs so that Peppermint wouldn’t jump on her. As she grew older, she became very attached to Peppermint, who seemed to prefer Kristin. When Kristin would call herself the “Dog Whisperer,” Julie would angrily tell her, “Stop saying that!”

Memories of Julie taking care of Zechariah. During family weekend at William & Mary, Zechariah was sitting beside his Ate Julie while we ate dinner. I asked Julie to make sure her cousin ate all the grapes on his plate. Without looking at him, Julie would point her finger at his plate, and Zechariah would dutifully pick up and eat a grape. After a few moments, Julie would point again, and Zechariah would eat another grape. This went on until all the grapes were eaten.

In 2015, I attended my first writers’ conference in Asheville, North Carolina. Since Julie and Kristin were on summer break from college, they agreed to stay with Zechariah when Zee drove me to and from the conference. Lindsey stayed at our house, too. Zechariah had a great time with his cousins. The following two years, only Julie and Lindsey were available when I went to the conference. During one of the conferences, I received a video selfie on my cellphone from Julie doing a dance around our kitchen with the caption stating the kids (Zechariah and Lindsey) were at school, and she finally had some freedom. I also received a selfie of Julie lounging at our poolside with a book. Later on I found out that her mom was wondering why she hadn’t come home while the kids were at school. 

Memories of long conversations with Julie. There were times that Julie would call and ask if she could come over to talk. We would sit in our family room and talk for hours. She usually had a burden on her heart for someone or some matter. She cared hard, but subsequently hurt hard. 

So many wonderful memories.

On the morning of February 13, just one month ago, I received another phone call. This time it was Kristin. I raced to the Rodils’ home, with a pain in my heart that I had never felt before. Julie had reached the end of her life’s journey. 

For 25 years, 2 months, and 17 days Julie was part of my life. But I soon found out that there was a part of Julie’s life that I hadn’t known. Her passion to help those who are unable to help themselves led her to action. She was involved with organizations to assist the homeless, especially the children. She worked against racism and social injustice. She was a doer. She fought to give hope to those living in darkness. She made a difference in the lives of so many people.

When Yahweh took Julie home, our hearts were broken. Our family tumbled into the deepest, darkest valley. But during Julie’s memorial service, we were given a message of hope. That message, that light in our darkness came from Julie’s parents and sisters. They spoke of Julie’s life and her faith in Yahweh. Their own faith in Yahweh gave them the strength and courage to share a message of hope for a bright, everlasting future that waits for all of us who put our hope in Yeshua. Their words comforted us. Their words encouraged and challenged us to continue Julie’s work to bring hope to those who are walking through their own valleys. 

Paul wrote: “I think that what we suffer in this life can never be compared to the glory as yet unrevealed, which is waiting for us” (Romans 8:18, The Jerusalem Bible). With the immense pain we are suffering from the loss of Julie, I imagine—I know—that the Glory that waits for us is going to be spectacular. 

In his homily during Julie’s memorial service, my brother Luis said that Julie had to take her final walk through the “valley of the shadow of death” on her own. But she was not alone. Yeshua was beside her as she crossed from this earth to eternity. Her work here was done. She has entered that Glory.

As I continue my journey through this life, I will cling to my Father Yahweh and my Savior Yeshua. I will hold on to the ones I love. And I will take comfort in the blessed hope that one day I will be reunited forever with those loved ones who have gone before me.

My dear Julie—I will always treasure my memories of you. I love you forever and look forward to hearing you say, “Welcome to Glory, Ninang Yaya!”

Senior Year

Today was Zechariah’s last first day of grade school. He started his senior year of high school—virtually.

I wondered how I would feel when this day finally arrived. Of course I’ve been thinking about it ever since he began high school. But the feeling of anticipation, and dread, started to really hit home when school ended this past June. After the traditional graduation Sabbath for this year’s AOY high school graduate, family and friends reminded me that it would be Zechariah’s turn next year.

Next year. Not so far away anymore.

I tried not to think about it too much during our stay-at-home vacation in July. We were supposed to travel to Texas, but COVID-19 changed our plans. Bad thing was Zechariah didn’t get a chance to see his Zuniga grandparents and family. But good thing was I got to spend a lot of time with him.

We watched the anime “My Hero Academia.” Just him and me, sitting on the old futon in the loft—his “boy-cave.” It was during that break that he and I went to the pet store to get his gargoyle gecko Peanut.

And we had family time, just the three of us. We watched TV shows. We ate together. It was one of the best weeks of my life with Zee and Zechariah. 

I tried not to think about Zechariah’s senior year during his birthday week in August. Yahweh blessed us with beautiful weather so that we could have an outdoor “fake birthday party.” (That’s what Zechariah used to call his birthday party that wasn’t on his actual birthday.) Some of our family members were able to see each other in person for the first time since social distancing started in March. 

Zechariah wasn’t expecting any kind of celebration this year for his seventeenth birthday because of COVID-19. His only request was to see the babies. And he got his wish and a party. In fact, he said it was a really good party (all the thanks this mom needed to hear).

On August 14, Zechariah turned seventeen. I baked the chocolate cake he requested—because he knew his dad liked it. We got food from Bravos upon his request. And we finished watching a Netflix series. It was a quiet celebration with just the three of us. COVID-19 downsized our plans. 

Zechariah had postponed an online game day with the guys to the week after his birthday because he knew I would want the three of us to spend the day together. That was his gift to me. 

Then came senior picture day. I chose the multiple pose and background package. Zechariah would have been content with the just the formal shots. He went along with it anyway.

When he was younger, Zechariah called the photos I tucked away in my Bible my “memories.” I think he knew that senior picture day was for my memories. 

I tried not to think about Senior year too much as I watched the photographer instruct Zechariah on the different poses. I stood in the background snapping my own shots. Then came the formal pictures. Zechariah looked dashing in the tuxedo he chose from Men’s Wearhouse.

As the photographer took Zechariah’s headshots, I couldn’t stop myself from thinking about it any longer. And I couldn’t stop the tears.

This is Zechariah’s Senior year. 

Zee found pictures we took on the first day of First grade. Zechariah’s smile and poses captured his excitement. He had already made it through half-day kindergarten. But that year would be the first time he was gone for the whole day. I survived that day.

Zechariah was excited and looking forward to his Senior year. He didn’t let the fact that school would be virtual discourage him. He told me that he was ready for school to start. 

And so it did. His Senior year has started. And I survived this day too.

I am sad for Zechariah that COVID-19 robbed him of the excitement of walking into the school building on the first day of school as a Senior. But my son got through this day with a smile. It was a good day for him. He doesn’t dwell on the negative. He makes the most of each day. And today he was happy.

Zechariah and I had a talk recently. I asked him what he thought about everything happening around us. He told me that he believes that everything happens for a reason. He figured since Yahweh is in control of everything, then He has a reason for the way things are. Since he can’t do anything about some situations, he accepts things as they are. Basically, he doesn’t worry because he leaves everything in Yahweh’s Hands.

Of all the lessons that Zee and I tried to teach Zechariah over the past seventeen years, I am comforted that he has learned the most important one of all—to leave everything to Yahweh.

“Trust in [Yahweh] with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6, KJV).

As I look at Zechariah’s last first-day-of-high-school picture, taken on our front porch, I’ll add the image to my memories. And I’ll keep all the memories of his thoughtfulness toward his dad and me. I’ll try not to think about graduation, just yet. I want to enjoy each moment while he’s still at home and it’s still just the three of us. 

And I’ll trust that Yahweh is in control of Zechariah’s today and tomorrows.

Happy Birthday, Little Star!

Dear Baby Abby:

This letter is long overdue. April 9 was your first birthday, and here it is, the last day of your birth month.

Turning one is such a big deal. We were so excited about your special birthday party, but that had to be canceled. So I didn’t know what to write to commemorate this special milestone in your life.

I’ve been thinking what message I want to give you—what I want you to know about your first birthday when you are grown up and look back at this time in your life. And this is what Yahweh has placed in my heart to tell you:

Even without the party, your first birthday is so very special because of YOU.

Your Mommy and Daddy did plan a special celebration for you. Don’t think they didn’t. Your Mommy handed out the beautiful invitations a few months before your birthday. Your Daddy made special arrangements to have your party at a beautiful venue. And I know your Auntie Jayna had beautiful decorations already planned.

They did all this because of beautiful YOU.

But without our knowing, a terrible crisis was building up. When you look back at this time, COVID-19 will be part of world history. As pain and suffering has affected the entire world, your little world has also been inflicted.

You will learn about the heroes in the war against this terrible infection. The main soldiers in this fight are the healthcare workers and first responders. Among those heroes in the nurse corps is your Mommy. Your Mommy is one of the bravest women I have the honor of knowing.

Your Mommy takes care of patients in the hospital because of this infection. She’s good at her profession and very caring and compassionate. But her work has taken her away from you. Because she loves you so much, she can only see you up close through a glass door. She separates herself from you and your Daddy to protect you from getting the infection.

Don’t think that your Mommy is choosing between her work and you and Daddy. Yahweh placed in her heart the desire to help people. And at this time, she feels His call is for her to serve others. She can do this because she knows that you are safe and secure with your Daddy and your Mama and Papa.

But I know her heart is breaking because she loves YOU.

Your Daddy is a hero too. The people who are out in the field to serve their fellow citizens leave behind their family. I know your Daddy wants your Mommy to be with you and him. But while your Mommy is helping others, your Daddy is home to protect you and support your Mommy.

Your Daddy will do whatever he can to make sure you are safe and cared for because he loves YOU.

Do you know, Abby, how very blessed you are? You are surrounded by love. Your Mama and Papa have converted their family room into Abby’s Village—full of your favorite books and toys. They make sure you are never hungry and always happy. Your Auntie Jayna, Uncle Stephen and cousins, Jonah and Indie, send their love to you even though they can’t physically be with you. And the rest of your extended family love you dearly.

None of us know why Yahweh allowed this crisis to come at this time, when we were supposed to be celebrating your special day. But I do know that Yahweh never makes a mistake.

I didn’t want your birthday message to be filled with sadness and disappointment, but those feelings shouldn’t be ignored. You will look back and see that the year you turned one was a time of struggle that none of us has ever witnessed or experienced before. But you will also see that Yahweh always shines a bright light in the middle of a dark crisis.

One of His shining lights is YOU.

Whenever I see a picture of you or see your face on the video chat, I can’t help but smile. You brighten my day. And not just mine, but Papa Zee and Uncle Zeek’s. When I hear of everything you do, from climbing onto your Papa’s lap to get the TV remote or crying when your Daddy takes away your bath towel, I can’t help but laugh. As sad as I am about your Mommy’s situation, I can only imagine how happy it makes your Mommy when she can at least see you up close. You make everyone happy.

“Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” was the theme of your birthday party. We were able to catch a glimpse of the beautiful decorations your Mommy bought in the pictures that showed how your Mama decorated their foyer on your birthday.

Yahweh gave your Mommy and Daddy a Little Star—YOU.

You are the reflection of Yahweh’s light, not just in the lives of your parents, but in all of our lives. You, Little Star, are the twinkle in your Daddy’s eye, but your light grows brighter and brighter each day.

And you are more precious than the biggest diamond.

We would love to celebrate your birthday someday, when all this is over. But we will always be thankful that Yahweh placed you in our lives.

Little Abby, Yahweh brought you into this world when He did for His purpose. Perhaps He wants your generation to grow up during a time when we need to rely on Him more than ever—to raise up a people whose faith is as strong as the children of Israel during their time in the wilderness thousands of years ago. To teach us that we need to teach you and your cousins to depend only on Him, so that you will be the bright lights that lead others to the Savior, Yeshua Messiah.

“…Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life” (Philippians 2: 15-16, NIV).

“Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16, NIV).

So, Little Abby, I end my birthday letter to you. Know that I am so thankful that Yahweh sent His Little Star to light up our lives.

May Yahweh continue to bless you and your family.

Love, Mama Ninang

The Last of a Generation: A Life Well Done

On February 24, 2020, we lost the last family member of an entire generation. Lucina Enano Luna, Auntie Ising, came to the end of her almost ninety-eight years on this earth. A long life.

Mom always talked about her older brother, Uncle Daniel, and two older sisters, Auntie Ising and Auntie Puring. But they were in the Philippines, so we did not have the pleasure of growing up with them in our lives. That is until Auntie Puring came to live with us. We were all so excited.

Then, in 1972 we went to the Philippines, and I met the eldest of the three sisters, Auntie Ising. One incident in particular stands out in my memory of that summer. I was eleven at the time. Our family split our time between the province, where Dad’s family lived, and the city, where Auntie Ising and our Luna and Bobadilla cousins lived. One of Dad’s relatives gave us a chicken. I remember being so excited. We had a pet. That chicken traveled with us from the province to Auntie Ising’s house.

It was a big deal when the chicken laid some eggs. I knew where eggs came from, but I never imagined eating an egg from our very own chicken. Then one day, Auntie Ising prepared a special meal for us—chicken adobo. When we found out where the chicken came from, none of us kids wanted to eat. Poor Auntie Ising. After all that work. Looking back at that incident now, and being an auntie myself, I can just imagine how hard Auntie must have laughed, eventually.

A few short years later, Auntie Ising finally came to the United States to join her husband, Uncle Senyong, whom we had the great pleasure to live with us for several years. When Auntie arrived, they lived with their own children, but we were able to see them from time to time.

Both of our Aunties attended one of our piano recitals one year. I played a 2-piano concerto with the teacher. Mom told me that they were proud, but Auntie Ising said that I was better than the teacher because she was using the music while I played the entire piece from memory.

Mom and Auntie Puring were so happy whenever Auntie Ising was in town. The three sisters spent hours together. Where the two younger sisters stayed in Virginia Beach, Auntie Ising traveled—spending time with her children who live all over the United States. The great thing about our Luna cousins is that they took the time to bring Auntie Ising to visit her sisters.

While gathering information for Mom and Dad’s life history for their 50th wedding anniversary celebration, I got a clear understanding of the important role Auntie Ising played in Mom’s life. Because their mother died while they were still young, Auntie Ising took on the role as Mom’s guardian.

From all reports, Auntie Ising was extremely upset when Mom and Dad eloped. She all but disowned Mom. But it was because she had such high hopes and dreams for her baby sister. During the anniversary celebration, I asked Auntie Ising if, after all the years, she were still upset or happy that Mom and Dad got married. With a broad smile, she emphatically said, “Happy!”

Both of my Aunties suffered the loss of their husbands and sons early on. So it was a great comfort to Mom when her sisters were by her side when we laid Dad to rest just before their 60th wedding anniversary. They understood her pain, and they cried with her. But when Mom died, their pain was too hard to witness. My dear Aunties sat side by side, holding each other’s arms and asking why their baby sister left them. There seemed to be no comforting them.

Soon afterwards, Auntie Ising’s memory rapidly declined. During a family wedding, Auntie Puring told me that Auntie Ising would ask for Mom. Wanting to spare her older sister the pain of their loss, Auntie Puring just said that their baby sister was resting.

Last year, we laid Auntie Puring to rest. Even though Auntie Ising was frail, her children lovingly brought her to be with her sister for one last time. I was sitting with my sweet Auntie as she gazed at the picture of Auntie Puring on the program. Auntie Ising gently stroked the picture and said that her “kapatid” was “maganda at matalino”—beautiful and smart. I wondered what precious memories coursed through Auntie Ising’s mind that evening.

The three sisters left this earth in reverse order—by Yahweh’s design. He knew that Mom missed Dad terribly and that she would not be able to bear the loss of either of her sisters. So He took her to her rest first. He knew Auntie Puring was stronger than Mom but in her grief would need to connect with Auntie Ising for comfort.

Then, because of His love and compassion for his sweet daughter, Yahweh protected Auntie Ising by putting a veil on her memory in preparation for the passing of Auntie Puring. He spared her the pain of remembering the deaths of her sisters and beloved son-in-law. But I’m sure He let happy, beautiful thoughts linger on in her mind, and He provided her with her loving children to care for her every need.

If Auntie Ising had her choice, because of her great love for her sisters, she would have wanted it this way, to be the last.

I wish I had more memories of Auntie Ising. I wish I could have spent more time with her. But I will always remember her gentle voice, her sweet smile, her loving embrace. And her ever present love for her nephews and nieces.

To my Luna cousins, I wish so much that I could have been with you as you paid tribute to your mom, to have been able to see her one last time. You have always been here for us. Please know that we, your Auntie Fely’s family, will always treasure your love for us and appreciate all your efforts to bring Auntie Ising to be with us, especially Mom. You are blessed with a wealth of wonderful memories with Auntie—through all your travels and celebrations. She has been truly blessed to have such devoted children.

To Auntie Ising, if I could, I would tell you “Thank you!” Your influence and love guided our mom and helped shape her into the wonderful woman she was. You blessed Mom and, in turn, blessed our whole family. We are so grateful to Yahweh to have had you in our lives. We love you dearly.

You indeed are “far more precious than jewels” (Proverbs 31:10).

The passing of Auntie Ising marks the end of a generation in our family. And it was a great generation—one that was faithful to Yahweh and devoted family. Because of their obedience to their Heavenly Father, we, the next generation, and our children and children’s children will be blessed. (Psalm 103:17)

It is fitting that the eldest of the sisters, the one who was watchful and diligent in taking care of her younger siblings, waited until they were safe in the Hands of Yahweh before ending her earthly service. When Auntie Ising comes before her Maker, I’m sure she will hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant! Come and share your Master’s happiness” (Matthew 25:21, NIV).

Well done, Auntie! You are now with your sisters once more, resting in Yahweh, to be together for eternity. I look forward to our grand reunion in the Heavenly Kingdom.

Little One Turns One

In November, the extended Asercion Clan celebrated the first birthday of Mama Fe and Papa Paul’s fourth great-grandchild—Nathaniel.

Three and a half decades ago, Nathan’s Daddy, Andrew, celebrated his first birthday. Certain milestones in the childhood years of each of my nephews and nieces stand out, but for some reason, out of all the 1st birthdays, it’s Andrew’s that I remember most.

Andrew and his mommy and daddy came down to Virginia Beach from Michigan. Mama Fe and Papa Paul hosted the celebration in our family home. It was standing room only, with plenty of food to satisfy plenty of loved ones who came to wish Little Andrew Happy Birthday.

The birthday celebrant wasn’t happy when it came to his gift opening. We had to wake him from his nap. Even though he didn’t cry, his sleepy, very serious, almost frowning face let everyone know he was not amused. That is until Mommy Koala and Baby (later named “Ryan”). I still have a vivid memory of the smile that broke out on one-year-old Andrew’s face when he saw the plush toys.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. Like his Daddy, Nathan was not a happy camper. Perhaps he was tired. Or maybe it was the noise. But what both celebrations had in common was plenty of food to satisfy all the loved ones who came to wish Little Nathan Happy Birthday.

And it really was a day filled with plenty of fun. The hall was transformed into Sesame Street. Mommy Aiden and Daddy Andrew are both fun-loving and wanted to make sure everyone, both young and old, had a good time.

The little ones played a new activity to see which child could say the celebrant’s name the longest in the phrase, “Happy Birthday Nathan—iel!” The Jarnagin brothers tied at the shortest amount of time of half a second.

Of course there was the well-loved (or not so loved) musical chairs. It came down to one little boy and Big Cousin Jonah. When the other boy won, Jonah shrugged his shoulders and then showed his big heart by offering a congratulatory handshake to his opponent.

Then there was the dancing. Cousin Joseph showed off his love of music and good sense of timing. He had a great time running with the big kids in his Cookie Monster shirt. And he did have some “COOKIES!!”

The adults also had their fun. They played a version of musical chairs that paired husbands and wives, where the husbands sat down when the music stopped, and the wives had to find their respective husbands and sit on their lap. Several women pushed their opponents out of the way, and one wife tackled her own husband (not sure how that happened).

Then came the singing of “Happy Birthday” around the cake. Even with the music booming in the background, Cousin Indie’s voice rose loudly above everyone else’s. Enjoying Indie’s “solo,” Uncle Dem had the kids sing “Happy Birthday” multiple times. Indie gave it her all every time.

But poor Nathan. He seemed to enjoy it best when he was in the foyer with Cousin Abby—away from the happy, noisy party. He couldn’t even enjoy his smash birthday cake. But because of him, because we celebrated his turning one, we all had a grand time.

A year ago, Yahweh brought Nathan into our world. And with him came an indescribable happiness that continues to fill the lives of his parents, grandparents, uncles and aunties. You can’t help but smile when you see him—he looks like a Precious Moments child (as pointed out, rightly so, by Auntie Miriam). Everything about him is cute and, well, precious. From his toothy smile to his mad stare, his piercing “cockatiel” screech to his soft cry, and his toy-soldier walk to his Tigger bounce. Watching him reminds you how blessed we all are to have him in our lives.

With everything wrong going on in this world, celebrating Nathan gave us the time to focus on everything that is good and right.

Andrew and Aiden: Thank you for bringing us together to celebrate your First-born’s first birthday. You created a place where we could put aside our stress and worries and hurts and just enjoy, even if just for a little while. Thank you for allowing us into your world as you raise Nathan. He is such a blessed Little One. He has parents and grandparents who love Yahweh and who will teach him to love Yahweh and Yeshua, too. You surround him with your faith and love—the best gifts he will ever receive.

Nathan: When you get older, you will hear how you cried when they lit your birthday candle and how everyone had fun except you. Your birthday party will be one of my precious memories because, Little One, you are precious to me.

As the season of Thanksgiving becomes a memory itself, I want to remember every blessing that Yahweh has given to my family and me. Each birthday celebration, each family gathering, each moment spent with our loved ones—those are all gifts from Yahweh.

And you, Little Nathan, are definitely a Precious gift sent from above.

Today is Papa Paul’s birthday. Your Daddy is known as “Little Papa” because he looked like Papa Paul when he was little. So I’ll call you “Little Papa Junior,” even though you don’t look like him. I know Papa, and Mama, would have loved you and your cousins so much. Praise Yahweh we have the hope that we will celebrate Eternity with Mama and Papa when Yeshua comes again.

So, Little One, thank you for letting your Grandpa Zee, Uncle Zeek and me be part of your first year of life. We look forward to all your years to come.

Love, Nina Nina

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Heavenly lights.” (James 1:17, NIV)



Decade Cousins: Growing Up

I call them the Asercion Decade Cousins, even though none of their last names is actually Asercion. They are the grandchildren, and great grandchild, of Mama Fe and Papa Paul.

For three decades, starting from 1983, a child was born to our collective family – three first cousins and one first cousin once removed.

Andrew, Ruthie and David’s eldest child, is the first of the Decade Cousins. Kristin, Miriam and Donald’s eldest, is ten years Andrew’s junior. Then came, Zechariah, Zee’s and my son, ten years younger than Kristin, and Jonah, Jayna and Stephen’s first born, ten years younger than Zechariah.

I know it’s redundant to use the words “ten years younger,” but it’s pretty neat how those births are spaced apart. Of course there are cousins who were born in between and after Jonah—just as important but not born at set intervals like the Decade Cousins.

I remember commenting to my siblings at a party back in 2012 how it would be nice if a baby were born to our family in 2013. Jayna was already expecting Jonah, but she and Stephen hadn’t yet made the announcement. Not only did Jonah add to the “train” but Mama Fe was able to experience the birth of the next generation.

When our kids are young, we mark the steps in the stages of their lives by the start of each new school year. And so we come to another first day of school. Zechariah just started the eleventh grade and Jonah the first grade.

Jonah had already gone to preschool and kindergarten. But he was still so little, and those school days were shortened. There came the realization at his kindergarten graduation, at least to me, that he was growing up. He and his classmates sang how they were ready to leave kindergarten and go on to first grade.

For the next twelve years, Jonah will be at school for the full day and will have wonderful learning adventures. He’ll be loved by his teachers and fellow students as they are blessed by his kindness and sweetness. And the teachers are in for a treat because Mommy Jayna will be one of the room mothers.

When it comes to growing up, I can’t stop Zechariah from doing it. He turned sixteen a little over two weeks ago. He gets his clothes from the men’s department (no more boys or youth sizes); he stopped asking for toys for his birthday wish list; and he’s ordering full meals from the menu (no more kids’ meals). He’s not driving yet, which is okay for Zee and me. But I know it’s just a matter of time.

This summer, Zechariah went on a trip without his dad and me for the first time. Uncle Gideon Mesia invited him to join them on their vacation in Florida. Zechariah packed the majority of his things, but as I was getting together some of his essential items, I was sentimentally overwhelmed. He was going to be on “his own,” without me there to make sure he took his medications or brought a jacket or ate. For those six days away, he didn’t need his dad or me.

But isn’t that the job of us parents? Ruthie told me, in her practical wisdom, that the job of parents is to raise our children so that they will become responsible adults who can live independently. If we do our jobs well, our adult children will not need us.

Hopefully, though, they will still want us – our advice, our approval, our presence, our love.

One of my associates and our office manager brought their children to their respective colleges a couple of weeks ago. They had to let them go. I still have Zechariah for another two years. I try not to think about the future too much. While he’s at home, whenever he needs me, I’m ready.

The Decade Cousins are growing up. Andrew is a pediatrician, husband, and now, most importantly, a father. Kristin is a lawyer doing her internship far away in New Jersey. Zechariah is in his junior year in high school and will be looking at colleges. Jonah is in the first of many years of grade school. Life is moving fast for them and the rest of the cousins.

For my brothers and sisters, congratulations on raising my adult nephews and nieces to become responsible adults and good citizens. For my nephews and nieces, even though you are grown up, thanks for not growing away. And to those who are parents, take care of and, more importantly, enjoy your little ones.

Whether our children are grown up and away or young and under our care, we need to remember what Mom and Dad taught us:

“Love [Yahweh] your [Elohim] with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 6:5-7, NIV).

“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6, NIV).

“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6, KJV).

As each of our children enter a new stage of their lives, I pray that they will continue to grow in Yahweh and walk with Him, through Yeshua Messiah.

Happily Ever After Part 2: Bundle of Joy

May 28, 2017 – It was like a scene from one of Disney’s fairy tales.

Jeremy and Cora said their “I do’s” at the Chrysler Museum on that beautiful spring day almost two years ago. I still remember how excited I was when Jeremy called to let Uncle Zee and me know that Cora said “yes” when he proposed to her at Disney World.

The wedding was elegant and personal. The couple was very deliberate in choosing the venue, the elements of the ceremony, the food for the reception, and even the treats for the guests—Doumar’s ice cream.

One detail that greatly impressed me was the music playlist. Jeremy put together all the music for the ceremony and reception, especially the song for the Mother-Son dance (which of course made us cry).

It was a joyful event. The love between Cora and Jeremy was evident in every moment of that day and the days that followed.

Then came another announcement a little over a year later. Jeremy asked to speak with Zee and me in private one Sabbath after potluck. Cora was working that day, but he wanted to inform us that they were expecting! I was over the top with excitement – quietly, of course, until the parents-to-be made the public announcement. But man! What great news!

“Baby Asercion” was due to be born in April 2019. Then more good news! Jeremy and Cora were going to have a Girl! After Indiana, our family and Assembly grew with the addition of baby boys. Finally, another Little Girl!

The early weeks were difficult for Cora. But her strength and determination got her through. She was smiling every time I saw her, even in the midst of the “morning sickness.” She was a cute mother-to-be and clearly looking forward to her new role.

Daddy-To-Be started preparations for his Little Girl early. Once again, Jeremy was in search of the perfect music. This time his research was for the right music to help with his unborn baby’s brain development. He downloaded the works of recommended composers to a little chip on his phone and played the music from his playlist for his Baby Girl, as she grew in her mommy’s womb.

The delivery day finally arrived. Up until then, Jeremy and Cora had not formally chosen a name for their daughter. After months of deliberation, they finally announced their daughter’s name just before they went to the delivery room.

On April 9, 2019, at 10:10 AM, Abigail Mesia Asercion was born.

Abigail—Hebrew name meaning “joy of the father.”

What a perfect name for Jeremy and Cora’s daughter! I could see the absolute JOY on Jeremy’s face every time he gazed at the tiny face of his Baby Girl and cradled her in his arms. And he was so excited to play the different classical pieces and watch her reactions. When Jeremy played Ravel’s “Bolero” for Abby for the first time, she seemed to settle down and listen as the opening strains gently filled the room. This, of course, delighted Jeremy since Bolero was the piece he wanted his Papa Paul to sing-hum as Papa pushed him in the stroller late at night.

Little Abby definitely captured her mother’s heart, too. Even in her discomfort from the delivery, Cora lovingly cradled her Baby Girl to comfort and feed her. And the new Mommy happily agreed whenever a visitor said how cute her baby daughter was. Cora seemed to enjoy how excited we all were to hold and admire her newborn infant.

With everything going on in the world, that little hospital room became an oasis of joy. Yahweh smiled on Cora and Jeremy and made another dream come true by bringing them Abigail.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights…” (James 1 17, NIV).

To the Mesia family: You have a little girl after so many boys. She has a lot of cousins to be her body guards. We are so happy that Cora is part of our family. And now we have Abby. Thank you for sharing them with us.

To Papa Louie and Mama Sally: Congratulations on the addition of another branch to your family tree. You both have so much love to give. Each of your grandchildren are blessed to have you in their lives. May Yahweh continue to give you good health and strength as you care for another generation and nurture them in the Word of Yahweh.

To Auntie Jayna: It is most certain that Abby will feel so much love from you and enjoy many fun, and silly, moments with her jolly Uncle Stephen. She will learn a lot from Kuya Jonah and have “girls’” playtime with Ate Indie. I hope you will have many Auntie-Niece moments. I can tell you, they make for some of the best of memories.

To the new parents, Cora and Jeremy: You have brought so many exciting moments into our lives. We celebrated at your wedding and now we rejoice at the birth of Abby. What a blessed little girl she is. She will learn from you, Cora, how to be strong and brave and still be a beautiful young woman full of grace, dignity and respectability. She will learn from you, Jeremy, to love music and the pursuit of knowledge, and to appreciate your gentleness and patience. You are the perfect parents for her. Thank you for letting us be not just witnesses but participants in your new adventure.

To Abigail: Welcome Little One! We all greet you with our open arms and hearts. Your parents named you well. The moment you were born, Yahweh filled our entire family with joy. You will learn very quickly how much joy you bring to your parents. And in time I pray that you will know that you are the Joy of your Father in Heaven. You bring Him great pleasure, Sweet Girl.

I pray that Yahweh will grant that you and your parents will continue to live Happily Ever After….

One to One Hundred

Last month, members of my family and I were honored to attend the 100thbirthday celebration of a special woman, Mrs. Paz Peng. (Somehow it seems appropriate to use numerals instead of letters in this situation. A three-digit number to designate a person’s age is indeed extraordinary).

The invitation from Mrs. Peng’s daughter, Aileen, to this momentous event brought to mind a happy, simpler time in my life. That time included Mom and Dad, Mrs. Peng, her sister Ate Raquel, and our families.

The celebration was a wonderful tribute. The family presented a video documentary, put together by a niece and her husband, of Mrs. Peng’s life. We learned that Mrs. Peng was named “Paz” because of the peace the world enjoyed one year after the end of World War I. We were taken through her life—her childhood, her school years, her work life. We learned of her courtship and marriage to her love and partner in life, Mr. Peng.

Mr. and Mrs. Peng enjoyed a long life together –with Mr. Peng living a little past his 100thbirthday. There were times of hardship, but there were more times of peace and prosperity.

For me, the most touching part of the program was when Mrs. Peng gave her remarks. She thanked all those who made the celebration possible. She also acknowledged the friends who had been part of her life. Included were “Paul and Fe Asercion,” Dad and Mom. It was because of her friendship with our parents that my siblings and I, along with our spouses, were blessed to be a part of this wonderful occasion.

Mrs. Peng’s life has been filled with many “riches.” What she cherishes most are not her material possessions or professional acclaim, but the love of her family and friends. She has been able to live a life of service that has touched and enriched so many people. The world has been a better place for the past century because of Mrs. Peng.

Go back in time one week before this centennial event. It was the First birthday celebration of a special little boy, Joseph.

It wasn’t too long ago when we drove to Hampton to meet the newest edition to the Lorenzo and Espino families. And just shy of one year later, we gathered at the Virginia Aquarium for the birthday party of Stephanie and Ray’s soon-to-be-one-year-old son.

The birthday celebrant had a grand time – walking around, while Lolo Frank guarded his every step. Ninang Jayna decorated with the “Finding Nemo” décor, which added that special personalized touch. Daddy Ray provided the music (probably the most special “DJ gig” he has had to date), and Mommy Stephanie made sure all activities went according to plan.

Grandma Ruthie, Lola Tina, and Grandpa David greeted family and friends as we sat among the water creatures “under the sea.” And we all enjoyed not only the food but the exhibits—some of the guests seeing the aquarium for the first time.

Then came the cake. It was a beautiful baked work of art. And little Joseph had his own “smash” cake. There he sat in his high chair with his cake on his tray, surrounded by dozens of onlookers. At first, he didn’t know what to make of it. Then he patted the cake with his right hand. Immediately, his face lit up with a smile. Hmm…something different. After a few more pats, he had enough.

First, he flung the icing off his little hand. Then, in what is becoming a signature Joseph move, he took one swipe at the cake and sent it flying off his tray. It was good Lolo Frank was right there to catch the cake before it hit the floor. But the “OHHH!” that erupted startled Joseph and sent him into tears. Thus ended his happy cake ceremony.

Joseph’s party was a great time. As Uncle Zeek commentated, everyone had a good time—not just the kids, but the uncles and aunties, too. He thought that was the best kind of party.

Two birthday celebrations: the first to celebrate 365 days of life; the second to commemorate more than 36,500 days. One year to 100 years.

Although a difference of 99 years separates them, Joseph and Mrs. Peng actually have a lot in common. Both of their lives are filled with people who love them and who have been blessed by them.

And they both have a Heavenly Father who loves them and has loved them since before the foundation of the earth.

Mrs. Peng spoke of her faith. It is evident that she lived her life following the One who gave her life. Because of her faithfulness, Yahweh has truly blessed her and continues to bless her.

Joseph is blessed because of the faithfulness of his parents, his parents’ parents and their parents. It states in the Bible that Yahweh will bless the children of those who are faithful to Him. Perhaps the most touching moment of the birthday celebration was when Joseph’s Daddy prayed and gave his thanks to Yahweh for his little boy and for the blessings He has given them over the past year. Joseph is taking his first steps on a strong foundation of faith.

I am grateful to Mrs. Peng for including our family, especially Mom and Dad, as a valued part of her life. May she always be surrounded by the love of those who mean so much to her and who treasure her in return. The world continues to be a better place with her in it.

For Joseph, I wish your days and years to be filled with the joy of childhood (even into your adulthood), the security of the care and guidance of your parents and grandparents, and the love and support of all of us who are so blessed to be a part of your life. Yahweh has a special purpose for you. It is exciting to watch you grow in His grace.

“Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of [Yahweh] forever” (Psalm 23:6, NIV)

May Yahweh’s love and goodness fill our days. And may we dwell together with Yahweh, and with our loved ones who have gone before us, forever.


Of note, the week before Joseph’s birthday party, we held the baby shower for Jeremy and Cora.

To be continued….

One Plus One Equals Three: New Birth

I remember the day Andrew was born.

Well, it started the day before. Dad drove Mom, Miriam and me to the hospital when we got the call from David that Ruthie was there in labor. We waited awhile but ended up going home before Baby Lorenzo arrived. When we went back the next day, we weren’t able to hold Andrew because he was on antibiotics. I felt so sorry for him, with the IV attached to his little scalp. But Ruthie and David’s firstbborn finally came home healthy and loved.

Happiness is a brand-new baby.

In 2014, we mourned the loss of Mama Fe. It was pretty tough as Mother’s Day approached, the first one without Mom. Zee and Zechariah planned to take me out for brunch. We invited any family members who wanted to join us. The RSVP’s came trickling in — Louie and Sally, Jayna and Stephen with Jonah, Jeremy and Cora, and Rob and Karen. The Lorenzos, except for Andrew, would be out of town that weekend. Andrew sent me a message that he would be coming and asked if he could bring a “plus 1.”

We all had our guesses on who the “plus 1” might be, but we had to wait for Mother’s Day to get the happy confirmation that Andrew’s “plus 1” was Aiden.

I don’t really use the word “bittersweet,” but that Mother’s Day was just that. It was exciting to see Andrew with his new girlfriend. But I wished Mom and Dad could have seen these four grandchildren so happy with their spouses and soon-to-be’s. We all were really missing Mom, but being together and enjoying Andrew’s surprise took some of the sting out of her absence.

Happiness is a brand-new “plus 1.”

Two years later, One plus One became One. Andrew and Aiden pledged their love to each other on their wedding day.

Happiness is a brand-new husband and wife.

And last month, One plus One became Three — Nathaniel Andrew Quijano Lorenzo was born on November 2.

Zee, Zechariah and I were visiting Auntie Puring at the hospital when I got the text from Ruthie that Andrew had brought Aiden to a different hospital. The three of us transferred hospitals and went to the maternity floor to wait for the arrival of Baby Lorenzo.

At 1:56AM Andrew and Aiden became parents.

Happiness is a brand-new baby.

As it turned out, my family welcomed Nathan into the world within hours of saying our final good-byes to Auntie Puring. As one life was ending, a new life was just beginning. Auntie left us the following week. She never got to see Nathan, but she knew of his birth. And she was happy.

There’s that word again — bittersweet.

But perhaps that is how Yahweh has planned our lives. It’s hard to take bitterness by itself. And even sweetness can be too much. But if you blend the two, they are much easier to swallow.

Solomon knew very well the dichotomy of life, as he wrote in Ecclesiastes: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die…. A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2a and 4, NIV).

It’s a given for every peak, there will be a valley. Even in the deepest of life’s valleys, the Bible gives us great hope:

“…weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5b, NIV).

“…I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow” (Jeremiah 31:13, NIV).

Andrew and Aiden: You may not realize how you both have brought happiness into my life during times of great loss. Yahweh blessed your union by bringing you a beautiful Baby Boy. Nathan is so very blessed to have parents who love him and can provide for all his needs. Not only will you surround him with love, but you will raise him to know and love Yahweh and Yeshua. Thank you so much for sharing your “Bundle of Joy” with the Zuniga family.

Ruby and Adam: Congratulations on the birth of your first grandchild. How exciting for you! I can see how much Mamang Ruby loves her new apo. Nathan is blessed by your loving and generous heart.

Ruthie and David: Congratulations on being blessed with another grandson. There definitely is plenty of love from Grandma and Grandpa to go around. May Yahweh continue to grow your family.

Happiness is a brand-new grandson.

When I look back at this year, I will hold on to the happiness that it has brought. Yahweh has a purpose for “thorns” in our lives, but I don’t think He means for us to allow them to continue to pierce our souls. I like to think that He wants for us to grow beyond the thorns and to look to the roses, to the beauty He has provided for us. He has gifted us with life and opportunities to show our love to each other. So, I choose to move forward and spend more time “smelling the roses” and rejoicing in all the wonderful blessings Yahweh has provided.

I think I’ll label 2018 the “Year of New Birth”—of Baby Joseph and Baby Nathan joining our family. And as this year ends, I look forward to new beginnings.

Baby Nathan: You have come at just the right time. In a year filled with valleys of pain and sadness, your birth shows the faithfulness of Yahweh to bring “joy in the morning.” You are a symbol of life moving forward — of possibilities for new beginnings. Of hope for a bright future.

Happiness is Baby Nathan! I love you! ~ Nina Nina.