My Treasure Chest

I have a treasure chest where I stash all my wealth in this world. I haven’t realized how much it has grown, but the last time I looked, my treasures have accumulated and lay in a heap, untouched, just waiting for me to come and do an inventory again. Taking stock of my wealth is a wonderful task. Wonderful, in the truest sense of the word: it elicits in me feelings of awe and wonder. And the fruit of it is praise and thanksgiving to God from the core of my being, like a spring of water that must find its way to the surface.

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I had heard it said that one of my unmarried granduncles, when he was still living, would sit up in the middle of the night, take out his box of money and count his worldly wealth. Single to the day of his death, he had lived simply and stingily and kept all his money, the bills neatly folded and bound, in a box where no one could touch it. It was said that after he died, the box was discovered under his bed – no instructions as to whom he intended to bequeath it.

Maybe he wanted to hold onto it and feel the comfort and security of possessing so much even to his death. Maybe it was his god. For in the absence of God in one’s life, one is bound to worship someone or something.

I would have done that, too, had God not taken me and showed me how to really live.

If my granduncle sat up in the middle of the night to take stock of his money, I too, sometimes open my chest and take out my treasures. One by one, I place them under the light where I can gaze at them and marvel once again at their beauty and how they have enriched my life.

The sparkling, colorful sapphires of answered prayers scattered all over the place. The deepest red rubies of the Lord Jesus Christ’s unfailing love, poured out in Calvary, washing away my sin. The opalescent stones of His enduring mercy and compassion that come in shifting colors in each ushering in of dawn – ultramarine blue, indigo, lilac, purple, burnt sienna, quinacridone gold, rose madder, carmine, vermillion – like the colors of the majestic sky when darkness gives in to light. They are new every morning! 

I pick up the strings of pearls that seem to have no end, their pearlescence shines the more when the light kisses it. They are His words that will never pass away, spoken to me through His prophets and apostles of old and His whispers of reminders and instructions through His Holy Spirit. I lay them down and see the golds, shining brightly like lamps in the dark, tests and trials in the fiery furnace of God which have turned into pure gold. It’s only through that (heaving one huge sigh) that the ore can be turned into gold. When he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. Yes, these words from the lips of Job I have echoed through the years of difficult trials of faith.

Covering the bottom of the chest, I touch the cold, many-faceted stones. And when the light catches them, they wink at me – glittering, dancing diamonds of God’s faithfulness. They cover me with their blinding brilliance.

I am very rich.

My sapphires come in varying colors: blue, pink, viridian, crimson, magenta, amber, and orange. They are the answered prayers that I hold close to my bosom: each one a beautiful story of a different hue; each one a powerful testimony of God’s goodness and faithfulness. I know each one of them. It would be a sin to forget any one of them, and yet, can we really account for all of them?

There was my prayer for a close relationship with my daughter Hannah. She was a little girl when I got ill, only two. I ceased to play with her or walk with her or bring her to school. I was busy getting healed or fighting fear and death. Our home wasn’t normal. There were no family dinners, playdates, trips to the mall… My husband threw himself to the management of the company I left in a huff, before it was too late to save it. My illness kept me bound in bed or a chair. And Hannah was left in the care of a nanny.

She began to be estranged from me. Each day that passed, I saw that she was growing to dislike me. When I called her, she didn’t want to come near. When I wanted to talk to her, she wouldn’t open her mouth. When I asked her to play with her toys at my feet, she hated it.

So, I prayed. I prayed and begged the Lord to not let me lose my daughter, too, because of my illness. Night and day I prayed that my daughter and I would become so close as a mother and daughter should be.

One day when she was in Kinder 2, barely three months before the school year ended, she decided to stop going to school. No amount of convincing or trick or pleading worked. One morning, both her Dad and I brought her to school hoping that she would be enticed to stay in school again. But she clutched at the stirring wheel so tight she could have pulled it out of its attachment had we not finally relented. We faced the scary reality of our child not wanting to be in school, for how long, we had no idea. And we were devastated.

I was truly depressed because I know of a girl when I was in grade school in the province who suddenly stopped going to school at grade 4 and never left their house from then on to this day.

Later on, we learned from the mother of Hannah’s friend in school that Hannah had been confiding to her daughter how it made her so sad leaving me at home sick. I was the more devastated that it was my illness that affected her decision to stay at home. I wanted her to have a normal, happy childhood, despite my illness.

I didn’t want her to be left behind so I assumed the role of a homeschooling Mama. Thankfully, I was strong enough in those days to be able to do so. So everyday I taught her – math, reading, writing, arts. We ate together during lunch break and in the afternoons, we napped side by side.

When she went to the park with her nanny, she always came back with a flower for me. She was always by my side, asking me how I was when I was in bed.

One night during my private worship, the Lord spoke in my heart.

“I have answered your prayer. I have made you and your daughter very close. I want you to be happy. I love you.”

I sobbed in gratitude and awe.

So, all the time that I thought my daughter’s future had been ruined because of my illness, it was actually the Lord’s design so that I would feel the love that binds a mother and a daughter even in the midst of illness. Friends in church noticed our closeness and mentioned it. My husband told them it was an answered prayer.

The next school year, Hannah went back to school. And happily.

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Heart for a Contrite Heart

Tim and I sat down to enjoy the Bon Chon takeout that his Dad brought over lunch. Hannah was resting in her room because she was on her second week of two-meal prayer and fasting. I asked Tim to warm my rice and beef topping in the microwave and told him not to transfer it to a bowl anymore. He said that he can’t microwave the cardboard tub. I insisted he could.

Me and my favorite boy in the whole planet, Tim.

Me and my favorite boy in the whole planet, Tim.

He came back looking distressed and carrying a bowl with my food in it, now looking like it was dumped upside down. He said he dropped the tub on the floor because it had become soft from microwaving and he scooped what he could into the bowl. I told him to pick up all the beef. Before he left for the second time, he told me in all sadness that I could have his food instead. When he returned, tears were racing down his cheeks. He was miserably sorry that he dropped my food and he wouldn’t eat. He just sobbed in his chair.

Now, my 8-year old Tim is a painfully sweet boy. And he’s very responsible and industrious, too. Unlike most boys his age who only want to play all day, he can assist me to the bathroom and give me everything I need. He is smart and efficient and follows instructions to the letter. On Friday nights when hubby and Hannah go to church to attend the overnight prayer meeting, he stays with me in the room and assists me in whatever I need help with: hot water, snacks (we eat together), toothbrush prep, face washing prep, drawing the curtains, blanket, night light, etc.

But he is a kid and he is bound to make blunders (even adults do!).

I couldn’t bear to see him so miserable even when I said that I wasn’t angry and it’s okay, that I was still eating my own food because I already blessed and gave thanks for it. So, I pulled him to me and hugged him tightly and wiped away his tears.

He whispered that he was also worried that his Ate Hannah might see the mess on the kitchen floor and scold him. So, I instructed him to sweep it off into the dust pan then mop it clean. So, he did just that. It was only after this that he sat at the table and ate. (I waited for him the whole time, so when I finally put food into my mouth, it was already cold. So much for microwaving it! We had come full circle 😀 ).

Days before this, I had a similar incident involving Hannah. We were prepping to make matcha bars using fresh coconut milk. The milk had been squeezed out of the grated coconut flesh by hubby using the exact measurement of water I gave. I sent Hannah to the kitchen to get it (we bake in our bedroom extension since I can’t walk, so we have a mobile kitchen :) ). When she came back carrying the bowl of coconut milk, she was sobbing, fat tears trickling down her cheeks.

“What happened?” I asked curiously.

“Mom, I spilled much of the coconut milk. I didn’t know the bowl was slippery and it turned over. This is the only thing I was able to save,” she sobbed.

My 15-year old Hannah knows her way in the kitchen. She can cook on her own, closely following recipes, and when she presents her creations to us with a flourish, we are grateful and pleased. Together with Tim, she assists me in baking. When I’m too exhausted, I can leave her to continue what we have started.

She put down the bowl of coconut milk on the table. The sorrow on her face told me that she thought all our preparations were ruined. But I looked at the quantity of coconut milk in the bowl and was certain that we had enough and some to spare (that’s because hubby was able to produce more than what was needed, compensating for the quantity that spilled).

Calmly, I told my daughter that it’s okay and we’re proceeding with our recipe. I worked cheerfully with her, wanting to appease her sorrow from her blunder. I wanted her to feel that she was appreciated (especially her contrite heart) and precious to me, mistakes and all.

That is the natural tendency of a mother to her child who has erred and is completely humble to feel sorrow for it. We just want to embrace and soothe their sorrow and wipe away their tears. Of course, there is always a proper time for correction and reprimand, sometimes gentle, sometimes sharp. But those moments of deep remorse with tears – we just want to draw them closer and give mercy and love in copious amount.

More than the fear of being scolded, I have seen that there is an underlying, deeper reason why Hannah and Tim felt sorrowful for their mistakes and were even tearful about them: they are developing a deep sense of responsibility in their hearts. They are not kids who are growing up irresponsibly. In their heart of hearts, they want to do things right, according to our teachings to them. They want to show proofs of their learning, growing, and maturing process.

And… I love that. My heart is filled with joy to see our children walking and growing before the Lord as what we fervently and incessantly pray for.

If we delight in our children’s contrite spirits, how much more God who put that love and mercy in our hearts? God has a thing for the contrite in heart.

For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, With him who has a contrite and humble spirit, To revive the spirit of the humble, And to revive the heart of the contrite ones. (Is. 57:15)

The companion of contrite is confessing. Are we a confessing Christian? Do we come before the Lord, humbling down ourselves and confessing and acknowledging our shortcomings, mistakes, failures, and sins? Are we humble enough to acknowledge them and be remorseful of them? Are we courageous enough to own up to them and actually confess (mention) each one though they may seem or sound really ugly? That they are ugly and no amount of cosmetics – excuses – can prettify them? Like maybe the things that we harbor in our hearts that we are really ashamed of.

Or maybe internal struggles against the temptation to stumble because we are seriously offended.

The Lord Jesus mentioned that offenses must come.

Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes! (Mat. 18:7)

The offender is not what I want to emphasize here, but the heart of the offended that wants to grow cold and give in to disillusionment (for want of a better word).

I’m sorry that I cannot give the details of the real struggle I had to go through recently. It is a sensitive matter. But I confessed everything to the Lord: the feelings of great dismay and discouragement I had to really fight. The resentment, too, and weariness of the spirit. I emptied my heart before Him. And until now, I still pray fervently regarding this thing that has so affected me. I’m thankful that my heart, our hearts, whatever they are going through, are known by God and are accepted by Him.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart—
These, O God, You will not despise. (Ps. 51:17)

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Journey with Jesus,

White and Fragrant

My original gardenia painting in watercolor on 12" x 16" Hahnemuhle 100% cotton, 140lb, 300gsm, acid-free paper. I love these gardenia flowers. It was exhausting and punishing on my back painting it, maybe that's why when someone from Toronto, Canada expressed her desire to buy it but when I quoted to her the shipping fee (about $20), I never heard from her again - I was hurt. This original painting is still available at my Rina's Art Gallery on Facebook (link at the sidebar, below "SSubscription". Price is P2000 ($40) plus shipping.

I painted a series of magnolia flowers a while back and I was just in awe of their beauty. The petals are pure white inside, and outside, it could be hot pink or magenta. All the time that I was painting each delicate petal, I was thinking of Philippians 4:5: Let your gentleness be known to all men. […]

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Unbroken Fellowship

walk in the light

We need not hide ourselves from the presence of God when He comes walking through our midst in the cool of the day, unlike what Adam and Eve did after committing the great act of disobedience: eating of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, the very thing that God […]

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A Heart and Mind on Things Above

things above

I feel the nearness of God not only when blessings abound, when prayers are answered, and peace and joy are to be had, but more so when He speaks during difficult times. When He gently (or strongly!) reminds and reproves and puts us back on track when we sway. It is truly a sad thing […]

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Christlikeness or Worldliness?

stumbling block

I swiped the tears that leaked out of my eyes like a child would, sorrow punctuating my every word as I confided with my husband about something that had deeply bothered me. The moment I saw it on Facebook, I was overwhelmed with dismay and at once, my sprit sank to the ground. How fast can a Facebook post […]

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