A Deeper Understanding of “Resting in the Lord”

I had been reading Christian books and devotional blogs mentioning the oft-quoted phrase “rest in the Lord”, but it was just very recently that I had a real grasp of it. I mean, it is easy to say it but what does “rest in the Lord” really mean? After the truth has sunk in my soul, I realized that “resting in the Lord” could feel very risky and scary. These are the things involved: risk and fear. That’s because we had been taught to rely on visible things rather than on the invisible God. But to truly rest in the Lord is to spurn these, to let go of these in exchange of plunging oneself at the feet of God, trusting completely in His mercy.

I don’t know how deep or trying your reason to choose to rest in the Lord is, but as for me, I took inventory of the years that I “rested in the Lord”, and I came to realize that to truly rest in the Lord is to believe that He can help, save, and deliver in the MOST urgent need. It involves a REAL belief, so real you could almost touch and taste it. That kind of belief is the seat of trust.

Because you truly believe, then you can trust, and therefore, you can rest.

There is no true rest when there is a shadow of doubt in your belief of a true and living God, a breathing, seeing, moving, fast-acting God – an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God.

I had wrestled with death not just a few times, and I remember my beloved husband offering to bring me to the hospital or buy me an oxygen tank at least. It was truly scary but I had always chosen to rest in God instead during those fear-filled walks through the valley of the shadow of death. I believed that the commotion that would be brought about by calling an ambulance, transferring me into it, the nurses milling about, the panic, the anxiety-filled trip to the hospital and then the hustle and bustle of the emergency room would be more than enough to stop my breath altogether.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4, emphasis added)

So, I always chose to rest in God, keeping my body as still as I could as I trusted in Him to save me, to deliver me to the next breath and heartbeat and to the next, until He brings recovery. I would keep still as an electric fan blew hard on my face, thinking hard about the Lord Jesus. When things were better, I even sang praises in my mind. He is a VERY PRESENT HELP in times of great need.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)

And though the flesh is weak and perishes, there is rest for the soul (Mat. 11:29). That is what resting in the Lord brings – rest for the soul.

When illness, suffering, difficulties, anguish, confusion, fear, weakness, worry overwhelm, I rest in His Word. His Word enlightens me, strengthens and comforts me. The Word is God (John 1:1).

To rest in God is His will for us. To be still in His presence and be confident in Him and His power are what He truly wants us to be. He has counselled us about this long time ago, that when we rest in Him, He will save and strengthen us (Is. 30:15). But the world had taught us to run elsewhere to get help. We had learned to rely on tangible things to quieten our souls and momentarily bring peace to our minds, not quite grasping the truth about God and what He is able to do. For with God all things are possible. (Mark 10:27)

Friend, are you looking for rest for your weary soul? Rest for your sick body or unquiet mind? The Lord Jesus is bidding you. He says, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Mat. 10:28)

Photo courtesy of my friend Myriss Torres.
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Journey with Jesus,

Resting in God’s Faithfulness

Meditating on Psalm 3:

Weekends are for refreshing the mind, heart and soul. May we do it by:

  • Knowing the faithful love of Christ. That even if there are persecutions in our lives, we know and believe that the lovingkindnesses of our God will uphold us. That we will in no way avenge ourselves against those who hurt us, but to be steadfast in trusting and serving the Lord with all humility and fervent love, and He will lift up our heads. That those around us will know, in time, that the God we serve is good and faithful.

 

And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels…

Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not. (Mal. 3: 17,18)

 

  • Resting in His peace that passes all understanding, for He takes away all fears from our hearts with His perfect love. That we will lay down to rest at night knowing that, even in our slumber, He sustains us, plans, and works for our bright future. To know that this is as real as He is.

May we know and feel the love of Jesus like a hammock suspended in the clouds, which gentle swaying lulls us to sweet, peaceful, and glorious experience of His holy presence. Amen.

Linking up with Spiritual Sundays, Domestically Divine.

In Christ,

Nurturing Self

I am not writing about how to pamper ourselves because the world is so full of that already. We read it in a cornucopia of self-help books and websites and we see it in heavy doses in ads and even on our FB feeds as friends share the different ways they pamper themselves. The idea to write about this came as I observed how the Holy Spirit has been whispering into my heart about how I have been caring or not caring for myself. The whispers come like an angel’s breath when I’m resting my ailing body. I have come to understand from these I-rest-and-He-speaks times that the Lord is so compassionate He wants us to care for ourselves wholly.

nurturing_self

The Lord does command, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). Denying oneself means turning away from the things of this world: secular pleasures and pursuits, the things that could bring fleeting happiness but are not aligned with God’s will and won’t earn us treasures in heaven. Even careers, jobs, wealth, dreams, plans — the Lord may desire us to give them all up for His kingdom. For those in the household of faith, we have crosses to carry as we follow the Shepherd of our souls. And by His grace, we will faithfully take them up.

But He does invite us to rest, too. He says, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31). Years ago, I understood the Lord’s compassion, His desire for us to be cared for, especially when we’re weak and recovering. In Mark chapter 5, we read the story of Jairus and her sick daughter. The Lord raised her up and instructed that something should be given her to eat. Also, in the story of Feeding the Five Thousand, he didn’t want to send the multitude away hungry. So, He fed them with fish and bread that He multiplied miraculously.

The Lord wants us to care for ourselves both with rest and nourishment.

The Lord Jesus and His disciples came to the home of Martha and Mary. Martha, anticipating that dinner must be served to her very important as well as tired and hungry visitors, fussed in the kitchen, cooking up a storm while her sister Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, enrapt as she listened to the Messiah. Martha complained to the Lord, but the Lord rebuked her gently, pointing out to her that Mary had chosen “that good part” and it wouldn’t be taken away from her (see Luke 10:38-42).

The Lord wants us to nurture ourselves with His eternal words. He wants us to draw close to Him, be still before Him, and listen to His voice. For “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Mat. 4:4).

To pamper is “to treat with excessive indulgence”, while to nurture is “to feed and protect; to support and encourage, help develop, cultivate; to bring up, train, educate.”

The Lord wants us to nurture ourselves, not only our families, so that we can be shining vessels for Him, a sanctuary of His Holy Spirit.

Physical Nurturing

I need to rest my body many times a day. Even though I don’t do any heavy tasks, I still need to cease from all work — whether writing, reading, assisting my children with their lessons, watercolor painting, etc. Often, my body touches the bed with a terrifying need to recover. I lie very still and concentrate on breathing. If I can, I fasten my mind onto thoughts that would distract me from focusing on my suffering; otherwise, I just say Hallelujah! in my mind in rhythm with my heartbeat. Thankfully, in less than an hour, everything within me settles into a blissful calm and warmth. That should be the fruit of resting in the Lord. For He said, “You will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Mat. 11:29-30).

These are the times I’ve been hearing the Holy Spirit whisper. He tells me that it’s okay to linger in that rest and savor the steady rhythm of breathing the Lord has blessed me with after a hard struggle. To rest is a command. Don’t be guilty about it. Remember the Lord sleeping soundly in the boat while they are tossed about by strong winds and waves. A restful nap is truly nurturing.

If I could I would love to make regular walks around our village. I would choose the back streets parallel to the creek. Maybe I would do that in the afternoons before the sun goes down. In my mind, I know how refreshing daily walks could be as my spirit relishes nature around me. Soon, I hope and pray.

Mental and Emotional Nurturing

For the sick and suffering, peace of mind and heart is hard to come by. That is why I strongly believe that mental and emotional health is tied up with our spiritual state. If our spiritual life is in the pink of health, mental and emotional soundness follows. Let our minds dwell on warm, loving thoughts — God’s Word brings them out — and not on fears, guilt, or self-condemnation. The beautiful words of Philippians 4: 8 begin with Whatever things are true…meditate on these things. Whatever the Word tells us about who we are in Christ, that is truth. It is only in the atmosphere of the Savior’s love and joy that nurturing occurs deep within us.

I have found the value of simply playing with the kids. We tell silly stories and jokes and we laugh freely. I believe it is in that place, delightfully wedged between the love and giggles and chatter that even my 48-year-old heart blooms. Don’t try to eschew the fun times you can spend with the kids, thinking that you have better things to do. Didn’t the Lord say, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mat. 18:3)?

Reading, writing, and now, watercolor painting, are a few of the many gifts I’m grateful for everyday. These activities are therapeutic. Nurturing.

I love gardening. If I could only go out there and turn up dirt, deadhead, water, apply fertilizer — just touching and caring for those living things in the plant kingdom — it would be like a slice of heaven. But I can’t, so I drew up a plan like a good landscaping artist does. The old garden clutter was replaced with slate and pebble paths and a zen water feature in a corner. There’s still lots to be done, but gardening, like life, is a process, not a one-time affair.

A library and a garden are havens for the soul, don’t you think so?

Spiritual Nurturing

If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you know that essays that point to spiritual nurturing are all I write about. Praise, prayer, the Word — you know the drill. But I counsel you to pray beyond the rote kind of prayer. Drench your life with prayer. You can never overpray. When suddenly at dawn you awake, there must be a reason. Sing praises to God in your heart. And pray your special petitions. You can go back to sleep afterwards.

In the mornings, before you latch your mind to your plans and open your gadgets, spend time with God until you feel full and have received the blessing to face the day. Nurturing our souls first and foremost is what equips us for life’s daily battles. When we are steeped with faith, fear is far away. Fear shrinks our spirits while the steadfast love of our Savior makes us grow and flourish. So, be a branch that is firmly attached to the Vine.

(All definitions from thefreedictionary.com; photo courtesy of Perla Frisberg).

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Journey with Jesus,

Rest

A day in my life:

write blog post – check

rest – check

make banana nut muffins – check

rest – check

eat – check

rest – check

wash hair – check

rest – check

And on it goes…

My day is full of rests like music! Sometimes when I really need to finish tasks, I consider these much-needed rests annoying interruptions and I get frustrated. But often, I welcome the respite. My ailing and weak body needs rest interspersed within my daily chores, otherwise, I would be bed-bound longer and wouldn’t be able to finish anything at all. This is an unusual rhythm of daily activities, but I believe all of us need to follow a certain rhythm as we go about our work. When we deny our bodies the rest they need, the harmony within might become discordant and we would feel it in the way of fatigue and stress.

Like me, I know that there are others out there who try to resist rest. We want to be productive, to do more, and accomplish more. But it’s not only our bodies that need rest, we also need to fill our souls with God things. And that, I think, is the hardest part: to rest in the Lord especially in the midst of the hustle and bustle of everyday or in difficult times. In those times, it’s hard to stop, drop everything, and rest. But we need to rest in the truth that even if our bodies and minds are at a standstill, the Lord continues to work on our behalf.

The problem lies in our need for control. We want to control our situations that’s why we find it hard to turn over everything to the Lord while we recoup our strength and motivation. But rest is good. Put back the harmony into your lives by resting in the Lord.

To mothers who are harried and frazzled by the tons of chores and challenges that make up their days – find time to rest. When your infant or toddler naps, nap, too! Don’t be afraid to rest your head on that fluffy pillow for a while, close your eyes, and succumb to a sweet nap. Even in our rests, for the sick bodies and the exhausted ones – the Lord shall surround us with songs of deliverance. There is nothing to worry!

To those who are still hanging in uncertainty and fear and living powerless against the works of the devil just because they don’t have a personal relationship with the Savior Jesus Christ – come to Him. He’s bidding you. You will find your rest in Him: He will own your heart-wrenching problems and fight your battles.

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Mat. 11:28-30)

Learn to rest in Jesus. He will not fail you as you put your trust in Him.

My rests are varied. But often, they include praise music, silent prayers, singing in my heart, or just meditating on the Lord and His goodness. How about you?

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The Gift of R & W

There is R&R (Rest and Recreation), and then there is R&W (Reading and Writing). At this time in my life, trials and all, whenever I read about friends’ and acquaintances’ stories of their R&R, sadness floods my heart. Rest I have in abundance, with accompanying discomforts, but resting in the Lord is another thing which I’m also blessed to experience. But recreation like the world defines it? Traveling and doing fun, great things that are exhilarating? I have not. Unless I count reading and writing as recreations, then, the Lord has made me rich in those areas.

(image from Google)

He has given me words.

Just after I received the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior and slowly learned to surrender my life to Him, I had someone wipe out my book shelves and dump all the books into sacks and burned. Those were books about different religions, even strange ones, about psychology, diverse philosophies, beliefs, and new kinds of spirituality. Even if I wasn’t an expert in the Bible, I knew then that my “speculations” on these strange teachings and spirituality were wrong. They had not led me to the way of truth, but if they ever had done something, that was to lead me astray, be more confused than ever, and even gave me the license and justification to continue with my distorted personal life.

During the first few years after I received salvation, and as I battled the threats of death brought by my sickness, I only held and read the Word. During most of the day, as long as strength allowed it, I read chapter after chapter of God’s Word, like my life depended on it. And it did. It still does.

I plowed through verse upon verse, passage upon passage, diligently searching God’s words, His promises, for me to gain understanding, and I held onto them for hope, strength, wisdom, and healing.

 …The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. (John 6:63)

I also received gifts from beloved sisters in Christ, Christian devotional books and inspirational ones. I then learned to read outside of my Holy Bible, but being extra careful with what I read. These books brought deeper insights, widened my knowledge and understanding of the Lord Jesus and His teachings, inspired and enriched me in my walk of faith.  I started to buy books again with diligent caution. Twice I bought Kindle books that promised to be excellent Christian reads, but when I found out that they taught a doctrine different from what I had received, I shut them without second thoughts and never opened them again. After this, the more I became extra cautious.

Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines. For it is good that the heart be established by grace… (Heb. 13:9)

Additional reading for you? Why not. Rabbits, Summer Reading, and Some Tear-shedding

Writing as God’s Calling

Around 2008 or 2009, I was sitting at our main door, forlorn and not feeling well, doing nothing but a lot of thinking. Suddenly a still small voice whispered, “Cheer up! Later, you will write about the birds that flutter in the trees and how comforting to watch them as they dart from one branch to another.” But I didn’t know where to send my essays and I didn’t know about this thing called blogging then, so they just stayed in my mind.

I love to write. Always have. When I was in grade school, I kept notebooks where I wrote poems. I wrote poems until I was already a career girl. I was editor-in-chief of our school paper in high school called The Far West, and later on in college, called The ChE Pipeline. But I didn’t pursue writing. I became a chemical engineer and loved my work. To God be the glory!

I believe that those early writing spells helped mold me into my blogging life now. But I also believe that it is what God has called me to do. At least for now that I can’t travel to testify and share the Gospel.

I love it that reading and writing always go together, like bread and butter. And I’m ever grateful that God gave me the gift of both.

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Journey with Jesus,

Of God’s Love and Warmth and Fuzzy Blankets

Over the many years of being sick with constant suffering, I found out that one of the hardest things to do is to rest and sleep without being hounded by fears, to trust that when I lay down my weak and ailing body on the bed, nothing bad will happen or that the discomforts will not get worse or the suffering intensify. You would want that your bed would be a haven, a welcome respite from all the hardships. But for me, it hasn’t always been that way. There were months over the course of my illness that I had feared my bed, that it had been a hostile place to be rather than a place of rest and recovery. And so, I had tried other rooms in our home, including the dining room and the garage (inside the Astrovan) to try to find that place where my body could find healing and rest.

IMG_7761

My lilac from last year, recycled for my blog theme. I haven’t found time to paint lately. But by God’s grace, I’ll be starting a new rose bush project one of these days since I had sold 5 of my original, really serious paintings. Praise the Lord!

I thank my dearest Lord Jesus that with the partial healing and recovery that I have received, those fears and anxieties fled, too. I don’t fear my bed and our room anymore. No matter how hard the suffering still is sometimes, I have learned to keep still in my bed and trust that God will all be God for me: my Savior, Deliverer, Healer, Comforter, Protector, Shepherd. And remember that though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for He is with me.

I have learned to really rest in the Lord. Doing that is really trusting Him to the uttermost, truly believing that He is mighty to save, yes, to save from the attacks of the enemy the devil. Trusting that my times are in His hand and He will fulfil the number of my days, that He will make my healing spring forth speedily and with long life He will satisfy me. Remembering that with my faith without doubts, he can and will perform miracles. And these words of His, His powerful promises, they are real and they are life.

With the healing of both my spirit (from the terrible bundle I used to write about) and body (partial) came also the sweetness of yielding my sick and tired body to the comfort of my bed, the softness of my pillows and the warmth of my blankets. I use throws during the day, two are tapestries (one of them with the names and titles of God from A to Z) and one is soft and furry. Before, they only served to make my body warm and bring it comfort. But lately, they have evolved into being a warm invitation to rest, to snuggle in, and yes, to even feel the sweetness of my Lord Jesus in them, believing and feeling that He is embracing me and loving on me through them. To be able to relish that sweetness and comfort – I am truly grateful.

I think this desire to find rest between the sheets began after watching a Hallmark Christmas movie. It was about a little girl sick of cancer who was very brave all throughout her illness and taxing treatments. One day after coming from the hospital, her mother brought her to her room, a pretty attic room with floral wallpaper and dormer windows overlooking the trees in the yard. Her bed was covered with a beautiful quilt, looking like every piece and thread was meticulously sewn in love. And on this quilt, the girl laid down her tired body with a smile on her lips, curled up on her side, and acquiesced to a much-needed rest and sleep.

I have always thought about that. It was only a movie but it spoke to my heart. The trust. The sweetness. The hope that everything will be alright. For our Lord Jesus promised to make all things new. And that He is with us always.

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,”
Even the night shall be light about me;
12 Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,
But the night shines as the day;
The darkness and the light are both alike to You.

How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How great is the sum of them!
18 If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand;
When I awake, I am still with You.

(Ps. 139:7-12, 17-18)

I don’t have a quilt that is lovingly pieced up and sewn, but I do have a Laura Ashley quilt cover that is strewn with rose bouquets and vines. By its loveliness I feel God’s love reaching out to me, that I am completely known, loved, and cherished. I know that it’s just a quilt, but if our hearts are full of gratitude, even that is a beautiful gift for our bodies to rest on.

I also stopped using woven blankets that are rather stiff and rough and itchy to my skin which add to my discomforts. Something whispered to my ear that flannel blankets would be a comfort. And so, I began using flannel blankets, soft and fluffy like clouds :). In all these, though just simple things and not the miraculous kind, I find rest for my body, mind, and heart. While I wait for sleep at night wrapped in fuzzy warmth, I think about the Lord Jesus’ tender mercies and compassions that never fail. They feel like a warm embrace.

These feelings and thoughts, they are gifts. They are vital to the faith and hope that I hold fast in my heart.

(I have been purchasing Laura Ashley beddings from Amazon at about half the price. I also get new, branded flannel blankets from local IG sellers at thrift prices, the likes of Valentino, Royal Copenhagen, Nina Ricci, and many others. The thrift price I’m talking about is of the $5-$20 range. Overall, I consider the comfort, joy, inspiration, and beauty all gifts from a loving, generous, blessing God! My heart is full and I am overwhelmed with gratitude).

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The In-between Place

I didn’t realize it until recently that that is exactly where I am, have been this past almost 14 years. The in-between place, the place where one is suspended between the past and the longed-for place somewhere in the future. The in-between place can be a hard place to be. It’s not really where you want to find yourself in, and yet, you are somehow powerless to leave, not until the time is ripe and good and it’s what God has planned. The in-between place is a place of waiting. Waiting for a breakthrough – in career, in finding the right life partner, in conceiving a child, in healing. It could be healing from a painful or traumatic past or healing from an illness.

This blog theme painting was rashly and haphazardly done... but I hope you get the message :) .

This blog theme painting was rushly and haphazardly done, but … you get the message :) .

The in-between place is the valley of life. It is low, often dark and lonely. It’s a place of longing. For most, a deep longing. And yet, the in-between place is a place of healing itself, a conveyance from the place of brokenness toward that bright hope where things will have shifted into one’s favor and everything will have been made whole. The mind has forgotten and the wounds in the heart and soul have healed. But that is only one particular case.

However much we want to reach that breakthrough, it doesn’t entirely depend on ourselves. But it mostly depends on Providence. In the meantime (yes, meantime is the in-between place), we can make ourselves flourish while we wait. The in-between place is not necessarily barren but more of preparatory. Of learning and growing. The in-between place is either a journey or a resting place or both. You journey in the dark, uncertain valley toward your dream and hoped-for destination and you also rest awhile. Either way, you learn the hardest and most important lessons. The in-between place is a classroom and the hardships and challenges if offers are the teachers.

Faith

Hope

Trust

Patience

Courage

Perseverance

Steadfastness

Faith and everything that comes with it are what will make us thrive in this place. And they are what will bring us to our breakthrough.

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2-4)

And while we gain hard-fought learning and wisdom in this place, it also offers the greatest opportunity to know God more intimately. Which, by the way, is the finest form of wisdom. We don’t come to know Him as the God who sits on His throne and barks orders to His angel armies while they scurry about. A God who keeps Himself aloof with the affairs of His people. No, but we will come to know a God who is very personal, who wants Himself to be known intimately, who wants to build a divinely passionate relationship with us. One which the gates of hell cannot prevail against. One which no one and nothing can pluck us out of. Or separate us from.

That was the kind of relationship God wanted to establish with His people, the Israelites of old. But for them, the in-between place, that place between the bondage of Egypt and the Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey, is just a wilderness, a harrowing journey they didn’t care much about. In fact, they complained and murmured continually. Some of us (even I on occasions) have been like the Israelites one time or another while waiting to arrive at our Promised Lands. And then, there are those who never arrive, just like many of the Israelites had not, their carcasses scattered in the desert. Just because they did not have faith.

And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. (Debut. 8:2-3)

Allowed you to hunger. I very well know that the Prophet Moses wasn’t only talking about hunger for food, but also for that longed-for something at the end of our in-between place. I believe even the ancient Israelites weren’t thinking only about food, but they were also hankering for a place they could call home, where they could at last settle down and take root.

But now we understand that God allows us this hunger. For only through knowing it that we turn to Him, realizing sooner or later that only Him could truly satisfy.

So, we surrender to this hunger and to the will of the Sustainer. And just like how He had provided for His people in the past, He will provide everything we need. For He has a plan for us. And His plan is perfect. He will bring us to our Promised Land.

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On Trudging, Patience, and Gratitude

Trudging through life. That’s exactly how I feel. Being unable to stand up and walk and move normally, with the constant discomforts brought by acid reflux, uncomfortable breathing, fatigue, weakness, and dizziness, my daily life is far different from the life I used to know more than a decade ago, or the lives of those around me and the people I know. It’s hard. Most days it’s like plowing through knee-deep snow (although I haven’t really tried that yet) or clay, where every single step takes a lot of effort and energy.

WINTER. My watercolor painting of a bird and dried up cherries in winter on 9" x 12" wc paper. (Reference photo by Betty Wiley on Flickr via Pinterest).

WINTER. My watercolor painting of a bird and dried up cherries in winter on 9″ x 12″ wc paper. (Reference photo by Betty Wiley on Flickr via Pinterest).

So, it’s like that: I trudge through the hours, days, weeks, and months. It’s like going over a hurdle from the last one to the next, heaving a huge sigh of relief and gratitude in between. One school term to the next. That means a three-month worth of homework and tutoring done and over with. One special occasion celebrated – photos taken, singing and laughters rang out, delectable food enjoyed, smiles exchanged, and thank-yous blown out towards heaven – to the next.

One heavy step after another. By faith. In faith.

I can no longer remember the last time that I cruised through life, breezing from one activity to another and waltzing through one celebration to the next.

That is what I see the people around me do. I find it hard to live and move with the rush and exhilaration around me, that’s why I often retreat to my quiet world where lack of strength is welcome and exhaustion finds rest. Hours of quiet, inactivity and recovery tick away with difficulty, but these, too, shall pass. Until the next activity. That and my deep desire to nurture a gentle and quiet spirit, much like Mary’s. With all the excitement around her with the birth of the Savior and the shepherds paying homage, Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart (Luke 2:19). No stress for Mary!

I hope that I don’t sound like I’m grumbling. I am only trying to explain how it feels like to be me, to trudge through life, and yet, learning the virtue of patience and living grateful at the same time.

True patience is devoid of complaints. That’s why it’s a virtue. It holds the character of a quiet, enduring, and sometimes, sacrificing, spirit. In the KJV Bible, it is called long-suffering and part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:4)

It’s the schoolroom of patience that we become perfect and complete. To run with patience the race that is set before us.

It is through the diligent practice of patience that we overcome, crossing one gulf to the next.

There is no more vivid example of that than in my swimming through the waters of a school term. Every afternoon, I anticipate the arrival of the kids from school. I set aside whatever I am working on, may it be a watercolor painting, working with my laptop, etc., and rest and be ready to welcome the kids. To offer them food when they are hungry, to massage feet when they are sleepy, and most of all, to tackle the homework and lessons. Being a very diligent and conscientious student once, I am the same in tutoring the kids, Tim now, especially. It is a task I don’t want to scrimp on.

You can’t imagine the relief I felt when suddenly – the term is over! And my Tim got straight As. Hallelujah! My trudging has been rewarded, now onto the next. Tim is just in grade 3 now. We have a loooong way to go. But always, we operate with the grace and strength of the Lord with unceasing prayers.

Last Saturday, December 3, we celebrated Tim’s birthday. We only invited 2 of his closest friends from our neighborhood because I can’t entertain people outside of family. I thought that Tim and his friends would just romp around then eat. My mistake. The grandmother of one of the friends came (she is a long time friend of the family), with the baby sister and a nanny in tow. I was in the patio ready to celebrate with the family and I could no longer flee to the sanctuary of my room.

To make the story short, I was able to visit with the granny-friend, took some photos and a video of everybody singing Happy Birthday and Tim blowing the candle on his cake (all of it happened in a whirl, as far as I was concerned, for I was fretting within, being very conscious of exhausting myself). And then had to embarrassingly excuse myself and hastily escape to my room because I couldn’t hold off the dizziness and exhaustion any longer. I was so embarrassed to ride in my wheelchair in front of them all but I didn’t have any choice. That’s what I had been avoiding to happen, that’s why I don’t open our doors to visitors. The nanny was openly staring at me like I was from another planet. Ugh!

But before the evening was over, (for Ate Irene, my neighbor-friend, followed me later to the bedroom where I was resting), I was able to sell her my entire 4-piece original IRIS painting collection, on 12″ x 16″!

I was fatigued but the night had its own rewards. I could forget about the stares when I had to hastily leave in my wheelchair. I only needed to focus on the good part: I was able to visit with a long-time neighbor and see her admire my paintings to the extent that she couldn’t almost make up her mind what to get. That makes me feel appreciated and it somewhat validates my work and gives me a feeling of fulfilment. All for the glory of my Father in heaven!

At the end of a long, tiring day, gratefulness is what is really needed. A grateful heart soothes and smoothes out stresses. It sorts out the lovely from the ugly and focuses and holds onto that. It brings back our perspective to look unto Jesus for He is our comfort and rest.

Gratefulness conveys us to another day, to rise up and welcome the new morning with hope and great expectations. For miracles happen everyday. Just be on the lookout for them.

It is of the Lord‘s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.

23 They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.

24 The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. (Lam. 3:22-24)

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Trappings

I am fascinated to look at our Church’s mimers’ costumes and observe how they have evolved through the years. It seems to me that every year, they are becoming more and more “interesting”. That is to say, the accoutrements have become more complicated, intricate. There are different mimer groups from outreaches around the country and when they come to the Central Church on special occasions, one would see the diverse colors and designs of their garb. The cut is becoming more meticulous: sleeves flaring out from the elbows like a 360-degree fan, vests covered with sequins, sleeves fanning out from the shoulders down the length of the dress so that when the mimer spreads out her arms, they look like diaphanous wings. Other embellishments include glittering fabrics, floral appliqués, sheer, bright fabric attached somewhere in the body which flies with the wind when the mimer moves. The colors are mostly combination of whites, blues, and bright pinks.

My watercolor painting of white lilies on 9" x 12" 100% cotton wc paper.

My watercolor painting of white lilies on 9″ x 12″ 100% cotton wc paper.

One time I commented to family about this. Then someone asked me that if I were to design the mimers’ costume, what would it be like? When it came to adorning myself, I always knew what I want: simple but elegant. The elegance is emphasized in the sheer simplicity of the garb.

So I told the family that if I were to design the mimers’ costume, it would be made of pure white, flowy fabric, cinched at the waist, then flows down to the ankles in full biased, the sleeves fanning out like wings, and the only color is the wide gold girdle around the waist. (Maybe what was playing on in my mind was the description of the Lord Jesus’ clothing when the apostle John saw Him).

I tend to lean toward simplicity and bring out the real beauty out of that. Especially now that I am a Christ lover.

But recently when I was combing through the books of Moses in the Old Testament, I observed that God has a penchant for a wide array of precious jewels and embroideries of golden threads adorning the tabernacle and the priests’ vestments. He was very meticulous in laying out every single detail to Moses. In my imagination, they were regal to a fault. Fit for a king. So, the mimers’ desire to adorn themselves with such elaborate trappings is just being true to the Old Testament picture. And I smiled.

But I can’t help focusing on the New Testament where the center is the Lord Jesus Christ: the embodiment of simplicity. I close my eyes and imagine myself walking where the Saviour and His disciples walked, even the life of the early Christians after the Lord’s ascension, and I get the overall theme of the time, which was stark simplicity. From the birth of Christ to His death, His life spoke of simplicity. No trappings. Just the pure Saviour of the world, Word became flesh Healer that was manifested for all to behold.

Has God changed then? No. We know that God changes not (see Mal. 3:6). But the physical tabernacle that was described in the OT where God promised to dwell in has become the Body of Christ, comprised of believers where the Spirit of the Lord dwells.

For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said:

“I will dwell in them
And walk among them.
I will be their God,
And they shall be My people.” (2 Cor. 6:16)

We need not adorn ourselves with costly jewels and clothing for the Holy Spirit to come dwell in us. He will abide in the heart of him or her who has wholly received the Lord Jesus Christ and who now walks after Him and not after the flesh.

I believe that the adornments of a Christ follower are now those of godliness: humility, modesty, a worshipful and grateful heart. The truth of God, the grace of the Gospel, the power of the Holy Spirit.

that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works. (1 Tim. 2: 9-10)

But, oh. Here’s the sad part: We put on trappings not necessarily made of jewels, fabric, or any other superfluous materials. We put on pride, the inner desire to be admired, liked, or loved, false confidence, even spurious love and service to Christ.

That is why there are some of us who make extra effort to make our photos “like-able”, to make our lives appear perfect (if only on social media). Oh, I know. I am guilty of it on occasions, too. And unless I present myself to my Father in heaven, bare and vulnerable, I would continue doing it, even though only subconsciously. But He speaks, and by His grace, I listen.

It dawned on me recently that these trappings that we put on can be the reasons why fear takes a grip on us sometimes and we feel weak. Last week, when I saw my daisy meadow painting used as the backdrop for the testimony pulpit during a very special occasion in church, I felt so excited my heartbeat became so fast and erratic I began to hypervent and almost fainted. My illness doesn’t allow me to get overly excited or depressed because it affects my breathing. Before that, I was having a hard time recovering from a full lunch (that usually happens). It was aggravated when I saw my enlarged painting.

I uttered in my mind over and over, “All glory belongs to You, Lord”, while doing my best to downplay my emotions. After a while of this and silent prayers, the Holy Spirit spoke in my heart:

You are experiencing this because your first reaction was to be happy and proud of yourself. It is hard for you to sever your emotions from the pure and the sullied and I understand that. But if you focus your heart and mind on Me, only Me, not on yourself or your surroundings, peace will descend and settle in your heart and you will be calm.

Hallelujah! We have a Savior who knows our frailties. Aren’t we glad of that? I am deeply grateful that I am known perfectly of God.

For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Heb. 4:15)

Fear reigns in our hearts when we are not pure in heart. When we put on the trappings of this world and not Christ. The worldly mindset is for us to put on the things of this world to be approved and admired by it. But the Bible tells us to put on Christ.

But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. (Rom. 13:14)

And we are not talking only of the issues of the heart, but the material trappings that we love to adorn ourselves with. Just because. We make extra effort to put on goodly apparel, even sacrificing simplicity and modesty which we have learned in Christ. He tells us to consider the lilies of the valley…

The Lord wants us to look at the lilies of the valley. Simple and not superfluous.

When people look at us, what do they see? Do they see the imprint of the world or of the Lord Jesus Christ? Do they glorify God because of what they see in us or is the Body of Christ criticized?

And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:17)

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Journey with Jesus,

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,