When Silence Reigns

One night last week, after seeing that my very serious hair problem wasn’t budging an inch, I felt my spirit shut down. An overwhelming need to be silent engulfed me. I lost all desire to pray. What’s the use when I’m not heard? That was, more or less, the beat of my heart and the whisper of my soul.

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This was a 30-minute or so dabble but I like how it came out.

For the past two months or so, I have been losing so much hair. Actually, I’ve been having constant hair fall even before I fell sick more than 14 years ago, but it has never been a problem then. I actually welcomed the shedding whenever I applied conditioner because my hair was very thick, thick shaft and lots and lots of it. But recently, the shedding has become alarming. Whenever I brush my hair ever so gently, an unusual amount of hair, like a nest, is entangled in the brush and more would fall, covering the floor with thick dark mass. My hair falls everyday even if I don’t touch it. It’s very thin now and it’s depressing me. It scares me even. If it doesn’t stop, what will happen then?

I’m puzzled why this would happen when I’m not taking any kind of medicine and I’m eating well. But I rallied all I have – mind, heart, spirit – and declared a faith that could move mountains. I did all my best – pray, lay hands, affirmations, and more begging and praying. Felix offered me his hair vitamins for advanced hair growth, but I declined. Maybe it would be a great help, his hair has become thicker ever since he started taking those supplements. But my body can’t just ingest anything foreign to it, like drugs and vitamins.

Another reason for my momentary spiritual shutdown is the nagging sadness that I can’t travel. It cannot be that our family will always stay put. I know that there will come a time when the kids will want to leave the nest and venture into the world. Or even next summer, they may want to visit other countries like many of their friends and acquaintances do. Already they are planning for adventures in Hong Kong or Singapore or Japan or all of those countries and more.

I want them to experience those, but how would that leave me? Alone in our home with only the housekeeper. Except for 2006, it’s always been like that for me. Whole summers they went away and I was left alone.

How will that leave me? Will it shrivel my spirit or expand it? More on the former, I believe. I have wanted to ask you, dear readers, what you think about this kind of dilemma.

All these burdens converged that night last week and I shutdown. I felt like a leaf, a gossamer leaf that with the slightest whiff of wind, it would easily shred into tiny pieces. My heart was so weighted down. It was an overwhelming sadness to which silence bowed down. A sadness that took up color and texture: dim and gritty.

In that silent space, I suddenly felt weary and didn’t have any desire to rally whatever I have left inside of me. I didn’t want to rise up and declare a faith that can move mountains. I couldn’t feel it.

I hemmed myself in with my silence and outside of it, the usual pesky demons lured me: self-pity, rebellion in the heart, coldheartedness, bitterness, rage, unbelief. But I ignored them all. It wasn’t about any one of them. It was about being silent and observing what the Lord Jesus Christ would do. Would He come? 

I wanted Him so much to come, take my hand and lead me beside the still waters and whisper words of love.

I wanted Him but I refused to pray. I had done a lot of that; it was time to keep silent.

But I still read my Bible, a chapter in Luke. I didn’t want to pray but I love His Word.

I closed my Bible and asked, What now? Where will all this sadness lead me? 

I opened my prayer journal, no, not to write a prayer, but to list down the good things in my life. I didn’t want to be lost in my sadness. 

I wrote (with editing):

I have a comfortable bed in a spacious room cooled by an air conditioner. I can listen to praise music anytime.

Whenever I feel strong, I paint. I have lots of professional watercoloring materials: paper, paints, brushes, books. There’s more than enough, and the colors and textures!

I can eat many times a day in small portions. I can enjoy a piece of cake, cookies, tea, and slices of fruit. I have pretty teacups and assortment of English teas in a box. A new favorite is jasmine tea.

I can read. I have many books in the shelves waiting to be read. They feed my mind and expand my vocabulary.

I blog. I share my life through words and encourage others in their faith walk.

I have my family around me. We love celebrating and being together.

Though I feel very low and really sad, I have peace in my heart.

In times of crisis, when we recall and list down God’s blessings in our life, we are blessed in a way that self-pity or hopelessness are held at bay. They will not engulf us or reign over us. A steady stream of peace will still flow in us. 

Later that night, I listened to praise on YouTube on my smart TV, but I chose the ones that I could relate to.

When there are no words to say
and no prayer that I can pray, hear my heart.
When I don’t have strength to try
and I’ve cried all I can cry, hear my heart.
Cause you know every fear and every doubt I cannot speak.
You know all the ways I need you and all the ways I’m weak, so I’ll be quiet
So you can hear my heart.¹

I try to be strong but if anyone can fall apart, I fall apart
I run back to you again and you heal my broken heart²

Didn’t I run to your rescue didn’t I hear you when you called
I walked right beside you just so you wouldn’t fall
Didn’t I leave all of Heaven just to die for your sin
I searched until I found you and I’d do it all again. ³

The anchor holds
Though the ship is battered
The anchor holds
Though the sails are torn.*

Before the night ended, I spoke to Felix’s ready ears and heart and tears fell. The days following, I would whisper, “Lord, be my Shepherd.”

It’s okay to fall silent at times, if this is the way we could find ourselves again in Jesus’ love.

¹”Hear my Heart” by Bill and Gloria Gaither
²Hold Me while” I Cry by Gerald Crabb
³”Didn’t I Walk on the Water” by Linda Gibson Johnson
*”The Anchor Still Holds” by Lawrence Chewning

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Held

My Christmas holidays were quiet, beautiful, and if I may say, holy. Holy if we consider being held and nestled in love and warmth a sacred thing. But then I believe in the sheltering and sanctifying power of marriage, that process of two flesh becoming one. No, not in the physical sense only, but in doing life together.

Please excuse my messy illustration, but I have a surprise for you at the bottom of the post - my latest completed serious painting project.

Please excuse my messy illustration, but I have a surprise for you at the bottom of the post – my latest completed serious painting project.

So, the holidays were simple and quiet for us. There were no grand vacation plans as I still could not leave the house. I had assumed that the husband and kids would like to go out, actually, insist to go out and have some fun. But I was wrong. They didn’t have plans at all! Hannah was busy with rehearsals for our church’s Christmas concert (she played the piano in the Youth Choir special numbers); Tim was contented enough to play with his friends in the neighborhood (except when I sent him and his daddy for some errands, including visiting the Grand Canal at McKinley Hill); and the husband was happy enough to spend time with me.

I had wanted so much for Felix and I to spend hours together everyday when the office was closed and he did’t have to leave for work. Without me having to pressure him to do so, he did indeed sit with me, lounge with me, nap with me, that kind of languid togetherness when he lifts my feet onto his lap, or when he shifts his body to invite me to snuggle in the groove of his arm and chest, that space that had been chiseled out by years of marriage life. You easily slide into that place, like soft jelly flowing into its mold.

The days were restful and did good to our bodies, minds, and spirits. It also fed the marriage with fresh fodder to make it richer, deeper, fuller.

I have been thinking that perhaps that’s exactly what the Lord Jesus desires for us: to spend long, quiet, restful times with Him. We see His heart regarding this matter when He visited the home of sisters Martha and Mary.

Mary sat at His feet contentedly drinking up all His words like a thirsty fawn, completely oblivious of Martha’s solo ministrations with dinner. Martha eventually voiced out her complaints to the Lord, but He gently rebuked her and pointed out to her what’s really needful and good.

And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: 42 but one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. (Luke 10:41-42)

Poor Martha! She just wanted to serve good dinner to their very important guests. But that is a challenge for all of us. Oftentimes, we choose poorly. We don’t seem to know how to wisely sift through the many tasks at hand and recognize that one needful thing and choose that good part. No wonder we feel weak and scattered sometimes. 

My illness and suffering steal so much from me. Because I have to stop and lie down for an hour or more to recover my strength (and breathing) many times a day, I don’t accomplish much. When I’m in that “recovery period”, I usually want to browse my social media feeds. My reason is that, I don’t want to “feel in full” the hardship I’m going through. I want to forget about it, hence, I browse and browse. I would prefer to read or pray or paint, but the problematic breathing, etc., wouldn’t allow concentration.

I hate it when I endlessly and aimlessly browse. I hate it that my life is spent that way. I am a person who wants to live a rich, productive life, nothing wasted. So I coax myself to just keep still in bed with my comfy day blanket and try to imagine that I’m snuggling in the loving arms of my Lord Jesus Christ. That’s hard to do, especially when I’m struggling to gain good breathing.

I also set my HDTV so I could listen to healing scriptures with relaxing music or an hour of praise and worship. I can only do that when my breathing has improved and I’m only waiting for strength to be able to stir. When I’m hyperventilating or when my breathing is not smooth because my digestive system works doubly hard, I cannot listen to music then or any words. I just want complete silence, a space where all my concentration is focused on breathing intentionally. The only rhythm that my heart and breathing can move in during those times is the word hallelujah uttered silently in my mind. Every single, important breath breathes in and out hallelujah.

When I listen to praise music, I think on the Lord Jesus. I strive to know Him deeper then, or know Him again and again. It would be best if I could sing in worship and enter the circle of His light and presence, but I can’t. So, I do my best to spend time with Him in the embrace of lyrics and melody as I listen. Sometimes, He brings me enough bodily comfort that I feel slumbrous. At other times, He stirs up my heart and tears flow.

During those times, I want to believe that I am being held. 

…I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. (John 10:28)

Do you find it hard to sit still at Jesus’ feet and listen? To spend unhurried time with Him and just let Him love on you, whisper words of wisdom to you? Do you secretly enjoy more endlessly browsing your newsfeeds and watching videos that entertain you? I hope not. I pray that the Lord will give us wisdom and discerning spirit to choose that which is needful and good. And be held in the process.

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Hope for the New Year

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Hello, dear ones! I trust that you had a wonderful and blessed celebration of our Savior’s birth with family and friends. Our family was so blessed to have a quiet Christmas at home. I was strong and inspired enough to plan and do a few last-minute decorations and table settings with the help of the […]

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Christmas in My Heart

Practice drawing from two years ago.

My thoughts and feelings days before Christmas are a rhythm of struggles, hard prayers and deep ponderings  on the meaning of all these things we do during this season, and also a flurry of birthday celebrations at home. There is this sadness that hovers over my soul that I can’t quite understand where it’s coming […]

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I Will Be Faithful

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I imagine moving my #4 sable brush on the paper, imparting a blush of bright pink with dark, very vivid red peeking under the tightly-closed petals. The peony buds, perfect rounds of loveliness – they bring joy and inspiration to my heart in this season of painful hoping and waiting. I think about painting them, and of […]

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A Beggar But Not Beggarly

This is an image I got from Google. There was no time to paint the theme because my Tim birthdayed).

On the early morning after we celebrated my son Tim’s 10th birthday the night before, I found myself begging before God as at other times. Only this time, my silent cries seemed to resound from my corner of this earth to the splendors of heaven. And although the past days I wanted to be still […]

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