After a whole year of recovering and settling back into my old normal (no more daily hard struggles between life and the shadow of death), the Lord filled me with so much joy and blessings, both tangible and intangible, that I realized one day I wanted to dance and twirl and laugh and shout in happiness and thanksgiving. He has blessed me beginning on my birthday in October (I was able to get up and get dressed and join the family in our simple celebration). Then there was the birthday of my son Tim in early December. Although uninvited 😀 (but I was grateful they came!), my sister and niece traveled from the province to celebrate with him, together with my brother. We had a little party. We laughed and took photos and videos. I had the stamina to enjoy all that.
A few days before Christmas was my husband’s birthday. I donned on a new white flowy shirt and a new maxi dark denim skirt (these articles of clothing had been in my closet for months waiting for me to be well enough to wear them) and had a decent photo of myself taken (after a very long time!). It makes me happy when I am able to play dress up, put on a little makeup and have my photo taken :). For me it’s a testimony of God’s enduring mercies.
So we set up the table – placed my gold-leafed, alabaster and crystal candlestick (a Christmas gift from hubby which he bought from our favorite antiques/secondhand shop) with a tall, slim gold candle regally standing on top and a vase of deep-red roses. We brought out the only-for-special-occasion China and colored glasses. And so we celebrated my husband’s birthday in love, thanksgiving, and joy.
On Christmas Eve, I was able to go out to our living room and celebrated with family until the wee hours of the morning. We set up our formal dining table regally (although we ended up eating in the living room :D). We took photos and selfies (groupies?) and opened gifts. On Christmas morning, we had “boodle brunch”. We laid banana leaves on the table, arranged fried rice, boiled greens and veggies, and 4 kinds of salted, dried seafood. And so we celebrated Christmas Day.
During the holidays, the kids and I baked sugar cookies (yes, I can bake again!) in the shapes of J-O-Y and stars and snowflakes and decorated them with royal icing and gold and silver beads. Hubby had to travel to Mandaluyong, 2 cities away from our place, to buy the beads (the cookies were serious business!). And on New Year’s Eve, I wasn’t fighting between life and death, but watched the fireworks in our yard that hubby lit up.
These all seem ordinary to people who are not ill, but for me, it’s a tremendous blessing! Actually, other people’s reality is my wildest dreams! People who regularly read my stories on my blog may say, “How could she be so grateful in the midst of all her trials?” Well, it’s a case of the “half-full/half-empty glass” again. I don’t even see myself as half-full, but full! The Lord Jesus Christ fills my cup! And that was why I felt like shouting on the housetops! As my Tim says, “You feel so excited it’s like you want to pee already!”
But I sense deep within me that the Holy Spirit is whispering, “Come away. Retreat from all the noise of the world.” (That means my FB world which is the only secular world I know considering that I can’t go out). I have been sensing that admonition for months, to step back and let not myself be drenched with so much secularism, even only via FB, and be immersed with spiritual things instead. And though it’s quite hard to avoid communicating via FB, I’m heeding the Lord’s voice.
Sobering things come to temper our “loudness” (because maybe we think we’re giving God all the glory but are actually sharing in the limelight). In such times, I’m always reminded by the collectedness of Mary. In the midst of the frenzy of Jesus’ birth – the shepherds rushing to the site to worship the Baby King and telling everyone how His birth and purpose had been announced by an angel from heaven – the Bible says that “Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).
There is a time to shout out our praises and thanksgiving to all the world; and there is a time to keep them all in our heart and ponder them. There is a time to waltz in our triumphs; and there is a time to step back and relish quiet moments with the Lord. He is whispering, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31).
The Holy Spirit whispers and invites us to retreat and come away with Him to quiet places where our souls are refreshed anew, drinking in the spring of water welling up to eternal life (see John 4). Far from the madding crowd, we can hear and discern more clearly God’s voice and what He wants to tell us. We can better see the path He’s laying out before us. In the quiet place where the Lord Jesus meets with us, we can prove His acceptable and perfect will for us:
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Rom. 12:2)
In those quiet places, we can spend time in retrospection, enough to learn from the lessons of the recent past, and be guided not to repeat the same mistakes in the future. It is a time of self-examination and drawing nearer to God through worship, prayer, and the Word, and baring our heart and soul before Him (He knows our hearts better than we do).
In that place where we give of our whole selves, we not only immerse into deeper communion with God, but we also find rest for our weary souls and bodies as we breathe Him freely and lavishly and exhale the world’s toxicity. We let our soul and senses absorb God’s gifts around us – the cheerful warbling and flitting of birds among the trees, the gentle breeze that caresses our skin, the blades of grass that tickle our bare feet, the sheer quietness of our surroundings we can almost hear the bugs crawling!
And we would feel once again the fierce, undying love of Jesus like a tight embrace.
(Photo credit: Tamzinsketchbook via Flickr and Pinterest).
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Journey with Jesus,