Stop, Look, Listen

Before I said my prayers one night, after a day full of hardships as was the usual flow of my life, I realized that God’s favor may not be upon me. That should be it, what else could be the reason why I am not getting fully well, I am not being freed from suffering, and my fervent prayers for healing are not answered? In the morning, I would pray fervently, full of faith, for a miraculously healing. But just after breakfast, I would be gasping for breath like a fish out of water. My prayers for healing are clearly not answered. But I haven’t been really facing that fact because I thought that if I did, it meant that I was losing faith in God. And I know that without faith, it is impossible to please Him.

"Pockets of Quiet Places"

“Pockets of Quiet Places”

But that night, I needed to face the glaring truth: God’s favor is not upon my life as far as my healing is concerned. I receive answers to my other prayers: healing of family members, their protection, their success, their special petitions. But when it comes to my own personal petition, there seems to be a standoff. A 14-year standoff. For years I’ve been imploring the Lord to bring fresh change to my life, but He isn’t budging an inch. In the meantime, years pass and my life goes on: daily sickness and suffering, unable to travel even short distances. I’m always left behind. I have to plod through all the difficulties and challenges of my situation in each and everyday.

That night, I wanted to stop what I am doing: crowding God with relentless, importunate prayers, affirmations, declarations of faith, and the endlessly looking for His gifts tucked in everyday (so that I will always have a  reason to be grateful for). These are all good things, but I thought that I needed to stop the striving, the wrestling (Jacob’s kind), the advancing, the pounding and bombarding, the relentless fighting, the always-positive-always-powerful-always-full-of-faith stance.

I just wanted to stop and be still and know that He is God.

I wanted to experience Him even without my striving.

When I suddenly decide to keep silent, would I be changing God’s plan? I mean, when I decide to be still for a day, no striving in prayer, no nothing (but an enhanced looking and listening for God’s movement), would God’s plan for the day come crashing down?

I realized that maybe I have been drowning God’s voice and movement because of my incessant begging.

That night, I had the desire to lie low and let God do what He desires to do. I want to just be quiet where I am and wait for Him, if He’s coming and what He’s going to do. I want to observe closely in a day how He will move in my life and would I be able to perceive it? I want to stop prattling about His “blessings” on my life that I don’t really see or not that big or great but still thankful for because I should always be thankful. I should always be thanking, honoring, glorifying Him. There’s nothing wrong with that, except that it’s kind of forced sometimes, especially when I don’t see change in my sick and suffering life.

What if I cease doing all that and wait for Him to move in my life? To see if He will, to prove that He is looking and listening all this time?

To stop, be still, look, and listen. It is like asking. “Are You there, God?”

The following day, I still prayed and read my Bible, but I didn’t pound on heaven’s door; I didn’t try to pry God’s arm from His bosom to do what I needed Him to do for me. What I did, I watched. And waited.

I watched for His coming. I watched if He would manifest Himself to me. How? In what ways? I didn’t know. But I hoped that I would know if it was Him.

This reminded me of the prophet Elijah when he ran to the wilderness to escape Jezebel’s wrath.

A great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind;

And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake;

And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.

(From 1 Kings 19)

Thankfully, nothing of this sort happened on that day or the day after just to show God’s presence. But a few days afterwards, when there should have been a good reason to be angry and deeply hurt and an important relationship taking on another blow to the point of breaking, a still small voice whispered:

“Let go of pride. When you let go of it, you won’t have any reason to harbor anger or hurt. You are not supposed to get hurt when life seems not fair or even harsh. You are a child of God, daughter of the King of kings, a citizen of heaven, an heir of eternal life. Though you live here, you don’t belong here. You belong to Me.

“When others hurt you, treats you unkindly or even cruel to you, you don’t have to contend. You don’t have to explain or defend yourself or reason out to prove that you’re right and the other wrong. I know and see everything and I will put things aright.”

I let go of pride (or any likeness of it). I let go of the need or even the right to prove I was right.

When pride is slain, love flows in unobstructed. Love flows in and suddenly, we see clearly. We see the things we cannot see while we are striving. We see the face of love, like the gates of the kingdom of heaven flung open. We see the light shining through, melts all coldness and hardness and hurts.

Love expands and grows within and we see only the face of the Savior, always there loving us, even when we can’t perceive it.

Love shone when I most needed it. God manifested Himself by slaying the pride in my heart so that I would only know love. He manifested Himself by setting me free, not from my sickness and suffering, but from holding on to the right to be proven right.

This meekness and lowliness, things the Lord Jesus wants us to learn from Him, beget more love. Love, a surprise gift from a most unlikely situation. Love begets more love. I received it in full.

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I Wish I Could Tell You

I balance my 9″ x 12″ Saunders Waterford watercolor paper block on my lap (I paint in bed now). I reach out for the masking tape, my eyes and back drooping, heavy from hurt, sadness, and the burden of sickness and suffering. My arms and hands are weak aggravated by the wounds of angry words and accusations. But I want to start to paint because it is an escape. It is a place where I may find acceptance, peace and joy. It is a gift from God and it is mine alone. My world. My friend.

A painting from last year. "Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand." That Queen Anne teacup duo is a gift from an IG teacup seller. The Lord loves and blesses us in many wonderful, delightful ways.

A painting from last year. “Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.” That Queen Anne teacup duo is a gift from an IG teacup seller. The Lord loves and blesses us in many wonderful, delightful ways.

I line the edges of the block with the masking tape, tears pooling in my eyes but don’t spill. It is the soul that weeps. I lift the pencil to draw on the white smooth surface of the paper and I feel it descending upon me, this old acquaintance: self-pity.

I have just recovered from physical difficulties, wrapping myself in my pink flannel blanket as my insides trembled. I am grateful that with the warmth of my blanket and the peace of God that passes understanding, my body recovered (once again as countless times before!) and the angry words inflicted upon my heart and soul were momentarily forgotten.

Earlier, I woke up with the thrilling anticipation of doing something (though not that adventurous) I knew would at least lift up my spirits. I was looking forward to the bright possibilities of the day. My body wasn’t that “good” (my kind of good), but I wanted to subject myself into the thrill. To the hungry soul, every bitter thing sweet.

But it didn’t turn out the way I had hoped.

I wish I could tell you that only love and compassion surround a sick person. I wish I could tell you that in a Christian’s life, there is only fruitfulness in the Spirit, number one of which is love.

I wish I could tell you that only healing words are released towards a suffering one, a hand that blesses with its touch, a look that speaks of love, and thoughts of genuine care.

I wish I could tell you that there is only the kindness of four while they bear their sick friend in a cot to bring to the Healer, eager to scale up the wall, hauling the cot with the sick person in it to reach the roof so that from there, they could dangle their burden in front of the One who could make him well.

I wish I could tell you there is only fervent, sacrificial love among brethren.

I wish I could tell you there’s only this:

Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification [uplifting], that it may impart grace [compassion, goodness, kindness, love] to the hearers.

 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted…

(Selections from Ephesians 4).

But I can’t. For there is also the poor woman who had an issue of blood 12 years and who was alone in her suffering. How sad and silent her world had been! For with her kind of affliction, she was considered unclean. Understandably, she was shunned. She was so alone that no one would even care to walk with her to search for the Healer. She had no one to send to Him and say, “Lord, please come and heal my wife/daughter/sister/friend”. We know that there was no husband or mother or sibling or friend that was mentioned. She was alone. And in her sickness and weakness, she had to crawl and creep behind Him who could end all her miseries.

And you remember also the crippled man who had been in that situation 38 years? He had no one to bring him to the pool when the water was troubled. So he never had the chance to even dip his toes into the water, let alone swim there to be healed.

He had no one who cared. That is, until Jesus.

Do you think that it would be far better if the heart learned to not be hurt by any external stimuli? But how? Unless the heart becomes numb, which is a worse thing. Or maybe when the heart has grown and expanded so wide that it could swallow up any hurts, like scarlet paint spreading through water. But I believe that the heart was made to feel, whether joy or pain. It’s part of being human.

When we find ourselves heartbroken, a song finds its way to our hearts. And so this song finds its way to mine.

Praise His Name

When you’re up against a wall
And your mountain seems so tall
And you realize that life’s not always fair
You can run away and hide
Let the old man decide
Or you can change your circumstances with a prayer

When everything falls apart
Praise His Name
And when you have a broken heart
Just raise your hands and say
Lord, you’re all I need
You’re everything to me
And you’ll take the pain away

When it seems you’re all alone
Praise His Name
When you feel you can’t go on
Just raise your hands and say
Greater is He that is within me
You can praise the hurt away
If you’ll just praise His Name

Ohhh,
You can overcome
By the blood of the lamb
And by the word of your testimony
You’ll see the darkness go
As your faith begins to grow
You’re not alone, so how can you be lonely

When we find ourselves bereft of compassion from others, there is One who is really compassionate to us. The One who gave His all on the cross.

I believe that it is from the sparseness of love that hurts sprout. All kinds of problems arise when there is lack of love. Faults look big when love is small, remember?

But we are never far from love, for if we belong to Christ, we belong to love. When we abide in Him, we abide in love.

And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. (1 John 4:16, emphasis mine)

So abide. He will come to our Bethesdas. Or when He passes by, we could crawl up behind Him to touch even His garment. There is always healing at the end.

Amen and amen!

Here’s the song, the current theme song of my life :) .

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The Blessing of Ordinary Days

On a Sunday evening, I open my prayer journal in a sudden need of connecting amid the heaviness of my heart. All day long, suffering has been unrelenting, making me feel battered and spent. And at the end of the day when dusk settles in, darkness seems to settle in my soul as well. So I write. I write of the gloom and hopelessness that threaten to invade my heart and soul, that make one not to know what to do or how to go on. Or how to keep on living in the light. I end my prayer with:

Please help me. Only You can do something for me.

Still not well and strong enough to paint decently :). Dandelions for my blog theme today.

Still not well and strong enough to paint decently :). Dandelions for my blog theme today.

Sometimes, that is all that we can do. Cry for help.

I close my journal with a heavy sigh and turn towards my husband. I tell him about the state of my heart. The fear of losing hope, of losing joy, of losing the light in my eyes and soul and dwelling in darkness. Tears fall. Tim comes near, he hugs and kisses me. He wants to let me know I am loved and cherished and precious. Felix makes light of the situation but Tim rebukes him, “Dad! Don’t make a joke. This is nothing funny!”

The wisdom of a 10-year old boy!

Of course this is nothing funny. But father and son then team up to strengthen the mother. And this mother re-enters the light. I smile through my tears.

The following morning, Felix leaves for the airport. Cosmetics convention in Bangkok, Thailand. I would have loved him to be with us, it’s the kids’ term break anyway. But work.

I am a worrier. I hate that I am but I can’t help it. I have also other afflictions like nervousness and anxiety and panic attacks. These I acquired with my illness. But I fight them all with tons of prayers. I have prayed weeks before Felix would leave for Bangkok. And on the Monday that he leaves, I submerge myself in prayer. The demons of worry and panic attacks cannot get near.

The blessing of ordinary days (ordinary in that they are not days wrought with wonder or leisure or excitement) is to keep still and trust and rest in the Lord.

It is vacation and most people we know are away having a grand time. But the kids and I are holed up at home, barely exchanging a few words.

Melanie, a sister in Christ whose daughter we send to school, comes to assist us and cook our meals. She brings her 6-year old son. He and Tim play. Tim teaches him simple English words. He gives him his old toy.

The blessing of ordinary days is to see God’s care and love through other people.

In the afternoon, we cook pasta and prepare vegetable salad, then I invite the kids around our small mobile table stationed in our bedroom extension. While we divide portions, scoop sauce, and drizzle parmesan, I tell them about the Lord Jesus Christ and His life of modesty and simplicity. Of how He wants us to learn of Him for He is meek and lowly. This in the atmosphere of our not being able to get away and have a marvellous vacation somewhere.

I tell them that maybe the Lord is teaching us (them, especially) to have humble and grateful hearts. I then ask each one what they know of this: to be humble and grateful. I let them see what we do have and be grateful for every one of them.

The blessing of ordinary days is to remember the Lord’s teachings and learn of Him, of tucking Him and His Word into our hearts so that we continue to grow and be fruitful.

The next day (after recovering from a nasty attack of my illness), I watch this short Christian film. It’s a story about a shepherd boy who is partially crippled. He lives alone with his mother. Though his right shoulder and leg hurt constantly, he needs to go to the hills to pasture the sheep that they don’t even own. One night, he encounters the Lord Jesus Himself but he doesn’t know it’s Him. It’s supposed to be “Christmas”, the night the Savior was born 30 years before. They are in the same hill country where the angel announced glad tidings of great joy to the shepherds working the cold night shift. The boy’s father was one of those shepherds.

They start to talk. The boy shares his water and dinner of bread wrapped in cloth, but not the special cake his mother baked for him. Later on when he realizes that the “stranger” is good and kind, he shares the cake also and apologizes for withholding it at first. The Lord touches the boy’s shoulder, takes his crutch (which the boy willingly gives), and walks into the night. Needless to say, the boy is made whole that same hour. He runs home to his mother.

All this time, tears fall down my cheeks. I am awash with fresh downpour of love.

Sometimes, the heart responds and learns more through love than through sermon. Stories of love based on truth. Stories of God’s amazing love to us through the Lord Jesus Christ. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. 

Herein is love. 

The blessing of ordinary days is to know and receive that love without doubt and questioning. And to love the Lord back just as purely. To love Him even in the hard, in the painful, in the excruciating, without any traces of selfishness or cold-heartedness or silent rage. To look Him in the eye and there’s only tender love and awe and adoration in us.

The blessing of ordinary days is to be able to receive epiphanies, to be able to hear God’s voice and be transformed by it. 

On a Wednesday evening, Felix texts me. Their plane has safely landed in NAIA. I feel so happy and light I could soar! I shout and shout my thanksgiving towards heaven although I’m sure no voice comes out from my lips. I kiss my Bible thinking I’m kissing my Lord and Savior.

The blessing of ordinary days is to be lifted up in this shared love.

Thursday late afternoon, we gather around our dining table. The kids set the table, more sparkling than usual. The side table carries food we ordered especially for this occasion: black seafood paella, lasagna drowning in thick layers of luscious cheese, and red-orange juice.

Before we lift up forks, we lift up our hands and thanksgiving to God. We don’t need special occasion to order food, set the table, and gather around it. When we celebrate God, we can do it any day. Even in ordinary days.

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In His Time

When I saw their picture together – relief, joy, and the dawning of happiness etched on their faces- I cried. I cried in joy and in a sudden gust of hope and inspiration. That kind of hope and inspiration that breaks through the hard, rock-encrusted trial (at least for me). I rejoiced with them in my spirit, not only because I was really happy for them but because their picture is an embodiment of a dream come true. A prayer answered. I rejoiced because God was showing me there is still beauty, hope, and light in this dim, suffering-laden world.

One of my practice paintings 2 years ago. Notice that I still hadn't learned the technique of shadowing between flowers.

One of my practice paintings 2 years ago. Notice that I still hadn’t learned the technique of shadowing between flowers.

Belle came to work for us in 2004. She is my husband’s cousin. She became part nanny and part caregiver. There was a time when she was bathing me: she was bowed down, concentrating on rubbing my feet with the soapy towel. I felt so touched by the sacrifice that I gently touched her head and said, “Someday, the Lord Jesus will bless you and reward your love and sacrifices.”

Not long afterwards, she found work abroad as an OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) with better compensation. When she transferred to Hong Kong, she became a choir member in our church’s outreach station there. Later on, after years of working in Hong Kong and serving the Lord faithfully there, she found her lifetime partner. They came home and got married in Belle’s hometown in the province. It was a simple, yet lovely wedding. Belle was a pretty, radiant bride.

Her husband (also a young OFW) returned to his work in New Zealand while Belle stayed in the province waiting for her petition to follow him. It was quite a long separation and there were a few difficulties in processing her papers. She spent the time cooking and selling meals in front of the school. She was also a faithful companion of my newly-widowed beloved mother-in-law. They attended church together regularly.

But at long last, Belle finally flew to New Zealand and be reunited with her husband. The photo I mentioned above was taken when they met each other at the airport: eyes shining, smiles breaking forth across there faces without reserve.

And I cried. I cried for the sheer joy of dreams fulfilled and lived. Of hardships overcome. Of love triumphing. Of perfect health and new beginnings and bright, shining tomorrows. Yes, I cried and rejoiced even if they weren’t my own. There is hope in the world. There is hope for each one of us who loves the Lord to pieces.

In His time.

In His time, He makes dreams come true. In His time, He heals all our diseases and binds up our wounds. In His time, He makes all things beautiful.

Everything Has Its Time

To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:

A time to be born,
    And a time to die;
A time to plant,
    And a time to pluck what is planted;
A time to kill,
    And a time to heal;
A time to break down,
    And a time to build up;
A time to weep,
    And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn,
    And a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones,
    And a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace,
    And a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to gain,
    And a time to lose;
A time to keep,
    And a time to throw away;
A time to tear,
    And a time to sew;
A time to keep silence,
    And a time to speak;
A time to love,
    And a time to hate;
A time of war,
    And a time of peace.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. (Ecc. 3:1-8, 11)

So, hold on to your faith, dear ones. Better things and better days are yet to come. Amen and Amen!

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Faithfulness and Persistence

To the sick and suffering who have been in the same difficult situation for so long a time, these, faith and persistence, could become so shabby, lackluster, that one needs to wipe the dusty surface to have a glimpse of them once again. This could happen when, for years one prays for miraculous healing and it doesn’t come, and instead, there could be more suffering. This doesn’t mean that faithfulness in God is gone for good. No. It’s just that, one’s fervency for that petition so sought for could diminish. Maybe one would still continue praying for it but the “faith that could move mountains” has waned. Importunity (persistence) is also gone.

My painting from last year. I hope you like it.

My painting from last year. I hope you like it.

That is, until one finds oneself in a harder place where there is no other thing to do but find one’s way back to them – faith and persistence – dust them up, polish and let them shine once more. Let them do their work once more.

For you see, even hope could grow faint and wax weak. One could lose one’s tight grip on it and when that happens, one finds oneself despairing once again. To lose hope and courage – it’s scary. But if we revive our faithfulness to God and our persistence in seeking Him and presenting our supplications to Him, there could still be a remnant of strength left in one’s spirit. And with that, hope. For these, faithfulness and hope, they fortify each other. And prayer in faith is the fuel upon which persistence operates.

As I have said, they could become lackluster, especially when, after a very long time of holding onto them, one still has not received answer to a very important prayer. One is still sick and suffering terribly perhaps. But if the going gets tougher and tougher, one knows that these – faith in God and persistence (importunity) – are the only things one can hold onto, that can bring one from this day to the next. That can rekindle hope.

And so, instead of entertaining the budding feelings of discouragement, self-pity, and despair inside (or the temptation to sulk against God), I am brushing up my strong faith in Him and pursuing Him with persistent determination once again.

I am praying this:

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. (Eph. 6:10-11)

I confess, feelings of hopelessness and despair sometimes creep into my heart, but I never – NEVER – let them flourish. However hard sickness and suffering is, I can’t afford to do that. I am a mother. I guess that says it all.

By God’s persistent grace, He revives us every now and then. This is more significant when one finds oneself in the lions’ den or in the fiery furnace heated up seven times than usual.

Do we still have Daniels and Shadrachs, Meshachs, and Abednegos abiding deep within us?

Do we still have that faith to face the hungry lions once again and believe – BELIEVE and TRUST – that God will send His angel once again to stop their mouths from devouring us?

Do we still have that faith that the Lord Jesus Christ will walk with us in the midst of the fire and we will walk out of the furnace without being burned?

Why are lions’s dens and fiery furnaces not shut down for good, like closed down factories which churn out obsolete products?

But we know that they will always be around until kingdom come. But the Word of God will remain. THE. WORD. OF. GOD. WILL. REMAIN!

In the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the Lord Jesus said,

Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. (Mat. 24:35)

And what does His Word say? It is only this:

But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name;
You are Mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you.
For I am the Lord your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior… (Is. 43:1-3)

These are so beautiful promises, but again, I confess: In the thick of sickness and suffering, one may feel like drowning in the deep waters instead of walking on them. One may feel like being melted through the fire.

It is during these times that our faith must not fail. Even for this, we need to ask the Lord Jesus’ help and intercession, remembering His assurance to Apostle Peter as also His assurance to us: “But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail” (see Luke 22:32).

In Luke 11 (KJV Bible), the Lord Jesus tells of a story between two friends and how importunity of the one got him what he wanted from the other. The story was a preface to what the Lord really wanted to say: for us to ask, seek, knock.

To be importunate is to be “overly persistent in request or demand”¹. In the story of the two friends, the one being asked didn’t want to be bothered for he and his family were already abed, but because he was his friend and because of his importunity, he rose and gave what his friend needed.

The Lord Jesus is saying that it is the same with our relationship with Him: we are His friends and He encourages us to importune Him, to ask and beg Him urgently, persistently, even troublesomely.

Sometimes we grow weary, yes, but the Holy Spirit leads us back to God’s Word over and over again and to believe and trust in its mighty power to do that which He intended it for.

“For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven,
And do not return there,
But water the earth,
And make it bring forth and bud,
That it may give seed to the sower
And bread to the eater,
11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” (Is. 55:10-11, emphasis added)

He will send His word and heal (Ps. 107:20). Amen.

¹ Merriam-Webster

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The Lives We Live

I stir in bed. I know it’s nearing noon, I need to rise up, but my body wants to linger a little longer under the warm sheets. I slept at around 4 this morning, all night long my left leg wouldn’t relent. Of all nights! The discomfort in my legs was more intense than usual last night, it felt like it reached to the marrow and it was hard to sleep. The kids left for school without stopping by. Or maybe they did but found me fast asleep at last. I stretch and get ready for my morning devotion, my eyes roaming around the still-dark room (the undrawn drapes block out the sunlight). On my marble painting table sit the two white orchid plants, a huge 50-piece yellow rose bouquet, and a basket of flowers and fruits. They certainly make the room lovely. And although I have not (yet) received the answer to my fervent prayer, looking at the beautiful flowers make me feel blessed.

This was just a very quick dabble as I have been on bedrest for the past 2 days, but I will do better next time. Promise.

This was just a very quick dabble (using up remaining paints on my palette) as I have been on bedrest for the past 2 days, but I will do better next time. Promise.

Yesterday, alone in my room watching the live streaming of our church’s worship service (hubby and the kids attend church; the kids sing in the choir), a courier delivered a pretty basket of fresh flowers (that included dark pink sweet peas) and fruits. While the maid talked to the courier, I was wondering who would be sending a package since I didn’t order anything. When I saw it, then I remembered. The wonder of it all is that, I always manage to forget about these yearly gifts a beautiful and beloved sister in Christ faithfully sends on my birthday for over half a decade now. So, I am always surprised! 😀 And she lives in Kuwait! And we have never met in person.

But she never fails to make me feel loved and blessed no matter how hard I’m going through. Bless her beautiful soul!

Then last night after midnight, Felix left the room and came back carrying two potted blooming white orchids. They are so lovely I almost couldn’t believe they are real. On his second trip to the garage, he came back carrying a huge bouquet of yellow-gold roses.

“Oh, these are so many! What, 36? 48?” I asked, thinking about all the numbers divisible by 12 😀 .

“50, of course!” He answered. Fifty yellow-gold roses for my 50th birthday. Of course!

“Happy birthday, mahal.”

Today, Monday, October 2, is my birthday. Beginning the first day of September, I prayed a special prayer: that I will receive the gift of my healing. But nothing changed, in my life and in my body. Maybe in another day or time, I would have been deeply hurt. Why is the Lord Jesus so quiet in that regard? But not today. Today, I will not dwell on hurts or self-pity or discouragements. Today, I will do my best to celebrate and be happy.

Later in the afternoon when the kids arrived from school, I managed to wash my face and brush my hair for a decent picture-taking. Honestly, I just wanted to sit in front of the camera and let it capture what it could. Let it gather all the stories my face, my body, my head would be telling. I wanted my picture taken to share with friends on FB and IG but I didn’t want to “embellish” a perfectly happy and contented facade I wasn’t feeling or carrying somewhere within me. What I wrote on the caption was this:

Sometimes there are so many things- different stories and themes, reasons and motives, thanksgivings and praise – that one would like to say, but time and space and words may not be adequate, so one would think that it’s better to say nothing at all.

If a picture can tell all the battles won and still fighting
If it can reveal how many walks through the “valley of the shadow of death” there were
Or if it can explain the joy that pierces through like a ray of sunshine slicingthe dark, menacing clouds
If it can express all the melodies and lyrics of a song of praise and thanksgiving ithat have enlivened the soul in spite of
If it can show all at once all the hopes and fears, all the desires, longings and despair, the unwavering faith and sometimes tottering perseverance and courage
Then let it speak and the words need not be written.

But one knows that it cannot.

Screenshot 2017-10-10 16.42.16

My family.

My family.

Screenshot 2017-10-10 16.37.46

I often wonder what my life might be called. A half-life? Thinking that I’m not living on normal health and strength. But even that moniker is not correct. For my strength is not even half the normal. What would a life that operates on a fraction of strength and a slew of indescribable and scary physical hardships that is far removed from the normal order of things be called?

Sometimes it feels like it’s all like a child’s play. The things I strive to do to show the world I am living a wonderful life in spite of – it feels like they are not really real or complete or normal. Like I am an alien  trying to live on earth like any other human does. But I know that mine is entirely different and I feel like an “outsider”. They only see that I am sitting there on a sofa with a smile on my face, sporting a light makeup and wearing new clothes. What they don’t see is the wheelchair that brought me there and how hubby and kids scamper to make me comfortable: electric fan directed towards my face, sandals put on my feet, hair fixed, etc.

Or when I take photos of my “teascape” and share them on IG. They only see the pretty tea set and the inspiring caption, but they don’t see the hands that washed and put them there. The hands that assisted me while I sat and waited. A child’s play.

But my behind-the-scenes role as a wife and a mother is downright real. I pray hard and pound on heaven’s door for my family just like any other healthy Christian mom does. My writing/blogging and watercolor painting life, thank God, is also very real!

I hope that I don’t sound like I’m whining, because honestly I’m not. I’m just trying to share and explain how hard life like mine is. I could use the word “difficult”, but it doesn’t say anything except that it’s difficult. But when I say it’s hard, I may be describing a hard wall, a hard ground, a hard place, a hard situation, a hard hand, a hard deal.

But in the hard, I beg the Lord (just as much as I beg for my healing) for fruitfulness in the Holy Spirit. For what is a life without fruit? In a desolate land, in the wilderness, one could still be fruitful. And maybe even more so. Because in the wilderness, one’s bread is the Word of God. It is the manna that one gathers each day for one’s sustenance and growth.

A fruitful life is the Word of God lived. Each and every day. And that is my light, my encouragement, and my hope.

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The Joy of God’s Calling

My husband showed me videos from his Facebook newsfeed of beloved workers in church who wrangle the rough-flowing rivers with their motorcycles going to a people on the mountains to preach the Gospel. These volunteers are not full-time workers but fathers who also hold day jobs: ambulance driver, security guard, fireman, etc. During their off days and weekends, they gather like a small army with their motorcycles and Bibles after which they will then make their long and arduous trek to the mountains of Sta. Inez to hold a Bible Study amongst the communities there.

This was just a very quick dabble to clean up the remaining paints on one of my porcelain palettes that's been sitting on my desk gathering dust.

This was just a very quick dabble to clean up the remaining paints on one of my porcelain palettes that’s been sitting on my desk gathering dust.

To be able to reach the place, they would have to cross seven rivers. When they have reached the top, they are rewarded with the cool mountain breeze, an invigorating welcome after their gruelling journey. Clouds hang low and wrap themselves around the mountain peaks, the mist hover in front of them and seem to whisper its approval and blow a kiss. As if that wasn’t reward enough, the anticipation of families – men, women, child, and the elderly – lining up in the gathering place, beaming with joy and thanksgiving, eager for the banquet that awaits them, a feast on the Word of God.

The joy of God’s calling! It lifts off the burden of life’s travails; it wipes away other desires that may serve oneself and not the living God. It is the antidote to all self-serving dreams and appetites. To find one’s way on this path is the beginning of the fulfilment of one’s purpose on earth. To be able to yield and place oneself snugly into God’s divine purpose without any trace of fear (and even if there is fear, to face it with courage and boldness that only comes from God), uncertainty, and resistance is to find one’s happy and satisfying place, which no other place could offer, like a key finding the lock made for it.

Many Christians (me included) struggle to live a fully satisfying, fulfilling life, looking here and there, to the left and to the right, for that life where you don’t get to envy or covet others’ lives. When we haven’t fully embraced God’s calling and purpose for us, we tend to look at how others live their lives and we then  compare. In fact, it is this practice of comparing that makes us to not fully see and grasp God’s plan for us. We dream dreams and desire things, mostly influenced by what we see around us and in the world at large. We set out and chase them purposefully. But we continue looking and comparing and coveting, never coming to that place of deep satisfaction and gratitude.

Until we seek and find and embrace God’s plan for our lives, we will continue to grope. We will continue to struggle to live a fruitful life, one that shines and reflects the glory and beauty of God.

I myself have been in and out of those kinds of struggles. But after my husband showed me the videos of the brothers fording the rivers of Sta. Inez, I found the answer to my wandering, groping heart and mind.

The Apostle Paul had found it and lived it until the day he died. And many Christians after him lived it, too, desiring a better, that is, a heavenly country, waiting for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

And what is this life?

It is to live is Christ.

For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Phil. 1:21)

This is all we need to know to be able to settle in life and live everyday.

To live is Christ.

To live following the life the Lord Jesus Christ lived. To walk as He walked. To think as He thought (“We have the mind of Christ”). To minister as He ministered. To love as He loved. To obey the Father as He obeyed. To live according to the Father’s plan and purpose for us as He lived His life according to God’s plan and purpose for Him.

To be meek and lowly. “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” (Mat. 11:29). The meekness and gentleness of Christ (2 Cor. 10:1). Thesaurus lists down synonyms of meek and lowly and I picked a few:

submissive, serene, gentle, unassuming, forbearing, humble, long-suffering, modest, patient, peaceful, unpretentious, yielding

To live with power and authority as a child of God. That is, power over all the power of the enemy.

Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. (Luke 10:19)

To live single-mindedly, doing the work of God.

Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. (John 4:34)

But Jesus answered them, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.” (John 5:17)

This is not an impossible task, for the Lord promised power and victory in faith.

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. (John 14:12)

Our hearts and minds are divided because we straddle the kingdom of God and the world, one foot on each, and in the deed, we feel discontented, unhappy, and unfulfilled.

…the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. (Mark 4:19)

Though we bear fruit here and there, it’s not abundant. In fact, more often than not, there is a lack. Or worse, a barrenness.

“To live is Christ” doesn’t mean it’s all a blissful life. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It’s living contrary to the world’s teachings and practices. It’s a narrow road. There are trials and tribulations. But it would be a fruitful life. Fruitful in love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. And when we live under the roof of all these, the reign of the Holy Spirit, there is no more lack, nor envy, nor coveting. Only a fulfilling life, knowing that we are at the very heart of God’s will and purpose for us.

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To Be God’s Own

Even as I cling to this, that to be wholly God’s is the whole meaning and purpose of life, I still intentionally pursue it with a single-minded determination through the moments of everyday. I mean, it could easily wriggle out of one’s grasp like a slippery fish. And there are moments still that it’s hard for me to connect it to my hardships and draw true contentment from it. But this is what it gradually does: it eases off the feelings of discontent and misery, believing that if I am God’s own, and that He is in me and I in Him, then, I must exactly be where He wants me to be, doing the things He’s leading me to do. That if I am His, the life I’m living now is orchestrated by Him and He speaks to me and I listen to His voice. I mean, there is no reason to bemoan my current situation perhaps, because He should be the One leading, planning and unfolding His purposes for me one day at a time.

I painted this solo strawberry with this thing in mind: That the Lord Jesus Christ is the heart of my life.

I painted this solo strawberry with this thing in mind: That the Lord Jesus Christ is the heart of my life.

There is a need to understand that the thoughts and plans of the Lord for His people are different from ours and the world’s. So, if we are truly in it together, then we must willingly yield our lives into His skilful and caring hands and not fret.

Again we ask, just to refresh our minds on the heart of the matter: What is the meaning and purpose of life? Why are we even here? It is God who created us and put us here and there is no way that He did it without a firm plan and purpose. He has known us and chosen us before the foundation of the world. Even before anything was created, He has known us and His purposes for us.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. (Eph. 1:3-6, emphasis added)

In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will… (Eph. 1:11)

The meaning and purpose of our lives is not solely and primarily to pursue careers and relationships and adventures and pleasures and wealth and bask in them, but to be one in Him and to be holy and without blame before Him in love. Which ultimately means that we are always in Him, in our Lord Jesus Christ, for He it is that sanctifies us. It is through Him that we have obtained an inheritance. And it is He who works all things in and through us to fulfil that predestined purpose.

The real heart and soul of the matter is to be so connected to God that we become one, making His will and desires and purposes for us our very own.

How does that look like for me who is housebound and weak and unwell? It is to invite Him into my life. There are times that I long for the Lord Jesus Christ so much, yearning to see and touch Him, that I feel even reading His Word, or attempting to watch Jesus films, or listening to praise, wouldn’t suffice. There are times that my yearning for Him is so deep that nothing else seems to satisfy.

So, one night, I closed my Bible and the TV (where I was trying to look for films about Him) and with eyes closed, I whispered:

I want You in my life, Lord.

I want You in my longings.

I want You in my sufferings.

I want You in all my troubles.

I want You in my sadness and loneliness.

I want You in my fears.

Having excavated and known my deepest wants, I then invited Him into my life, to be God to me, to be my Shepherd. For when I let Him be God and Shepherd of my life, the Bible says that I. Shall. Not. Want. 

Lord, I invite You into my life. Please come and inhabit Your throne in me and reign all over me.

You are the heart of my life.

You are the Life of my life.

Be to me the Healer that You are.

Be my Shepherd.

Be ALL God to me, my everything in every area of my life.

There is a family in church whose testimony is that, they used to live off garbage. It was their livelihood. They would wait for the garbage trucks to arrive at the dump site and forage for anything that they could then sell. They would also eat off the food that they found there. But when they began serving the Lord faithfully and learned how to give for the work of the Lord (much like the widow who gave her two mites), the Lord began to bless them abundantly. Now, the children are all grown up, finished school, and are all working successfully abroad. The parents would visit them, traveling to distant countries they never dreamed of seeing.

When they gave their lives to the Lord Jesus Christ, He became a Shepherd to them. Their lives took a new form. They could taste the fruits of being with God.

If we give our whole lives to God and let Him reign over us and lead us — we shall not want.

He causes us to lie down on green pastures. He satisfies our hunger. He makes our fondest dreams a reality.

He brings placidness to our spirits.

He restores us when we are a mess and we have made a mess of everything.

He leads us in His way.

He is with us through trials. His strength will be with us. He takes away our fears.

He comforts us in our sorrow.

He blesses us in the sight of all.

He blesses us with all spiritual blessings.

He makes our lives full and running over.

And afterward, He will receive us to glory.

And we will dwell with Him forever.

Life on earth is short. But be that as it may, we will live it in Him and by Him and through Him and for Him. It is the only way to live.

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The Meaning and Purpose of Life 2

I had written the same theme a while back, so why is there a need again to write another? Well, I hope it’s not entirely another, but a support of what I had written before. For when you are sick and suffer everyday (and you also see the suffering in the world or among your friends and acquaintances), you can’t help but continue looking for answers and sense, for light, for some understanding, so as to be able to continue trudging through this thing called life. For when you continue to be in the dark and not being able to grasp the meaning and purpose of your existence, it is hard to even face another day. It is hard to plan, to hold joy and hope, and look forward to a bright tomorrow.

LIGHTS. A painting from last year (I wasn't able to paint a new one for the blog theme :( ). My son Tim took the photo of the gladiola in the garden and I painted it. It is now framed and graces the wall near the dining area.

LIGHTS. A painting from last year (I wasn’t able to paint a new one for the blog theme :( ). My son Tim took the photo of the gladiola in the garden and I painted it. It is now framed and graces the wall near the dining area.

So, in the midst of illness, as I struggle against the suffering and go thorough it scared and so uncertain (you never get used to it or become comfortable with it!), questions about the meaning and purpose of life snake in and out of my mind and won’t relent.

Why are we even here when life is rife with hardships and suffering, often senseless and always painful?

Life is short and even shorter for others. You grow, you study, you get a career, you wed, settle and start a family. And in between those stages of life, you may find yourself face down on the dirt, weary, surrendered, riddled with problems, grief and pain, or illness.

In the span of a lifetime, you toil, you do all those for it is what we were taught, and then what? It all comes down to the end, and then what? What was our life? What was it all about?

Was it our stellar career? Was it rearing children that later on became successful in their own right? Was it retiring well, and then comes the end and we close our eyes and open them no more, at least not on this side of life.

Is that, really, the meaning and purpose of life? To be a successful career person, almost-perfect parent, one who saw the beautiful places this world has to offer? Who went on adventures, who enjoyed the best things in life?

What if your career is cut short by an illness? What if your dreams are dashed and your tomorrows are extinguished by, again, illness?

A beloved sister in Christ, the wife of a preacher in our church, went to be with the Lord recently. She was a school teacher and she just finished her master’s degree. She was looking forward to a brighter future in her teaching career, for she loved what she did. Then cancer struck. In that short time between finding her place in this world, working and dreaming and serving the Lord, and then her early passing – there must have been meaning and purpose to it. There must have been. Otherwise, we go back to the same questions.

I used to have a stellar career. I established my own chemicals company and built our office building with a small lab. I married and gave birth to my dream daughter. I honestly thought it was the perfect life, the absolute fulfilment of a dream. I honestly thought this. was. life. That the meaning and purpose of my life was right there in the middle of it all and I was the reigning queen.

When the life and health that I knew and enjoyed disappeared like a thin smoke and the career and dreams going with it, what then is the meaning and purpose of my life?

So, there must be that one thing where we could find the meaning and purpose to life and anchor ourselves wholly to it. For success, adventures, homes, health, relationships, material things – they could all be taken away and what will be left of us? An empty shell that walks like a zombie, a tumbleweed that is driven by the wind in the desolate place?

I refuse to accept that that is all of life. And yet, we go back to the question: Why did God put us here when we would see and experience so much pain and suffering? When we would despair even of life? If He has promised Heaven, and it is what we ultimately look forward to, what are we doing on this earth now? What are we supposed to do here now? For we know that life is short and the good things are not eternal but temporal.

Where can we settle our hearts and be peaceful and hopeful and faithful there?

How can we apply God’s truth to our lives so that we will embrace it as the meaning and purpose of our existence and then be single-minded about it? And then we will learn to live in it and bask in it and grow and be fruitful and flourish in it.

The answer to these questions I wrote in the first part and you can read it here (if you haven’t yet or you would like to be refreshed).

I am taking the meaning and purpose of my life as being a part of God. I am a part of God for He has created me and loved me before the foundation of the world. He has loved me with an everlasting love. A love that has no end. It has been a big problem for me to begin to understand that kind of love or even to fully accept it, especially through long sickness and suffering. I have questioned and doubted it deep in my heart. But if I would start to look at it this way, that God put me into this world to give me life and meaning and purpose and that He will always be with me (because He will not forsake the work of His hand), the heaviness and fears start to be lifted off.

If I believe in the truth that I am a part of Him and can never be separated from Him and therefore He is with me no matter what I go through, then I can begin to settle my whole self – mind, heart, body, soul – to His keeping. For His plan, for His purposes, for His delight. 

So then I could begin to live as His very own no matter where I go. He carries me and I carry Him in my heart. Then I understand that the meaning and purpose of my life is for God to love, to lead, to try, to teach, to bless, to provide for, to enjoy. All for His glory.

“Everyone who is called by My name,
Whom I have created for My glory;
I have formed him, yes, I have made him.” (Is. 43:7)

Then we fulfil the purpose of our creation, of our being here: for His glory. When we live as a part of God and know that we can never be separated from Him and go through life being accessible to Him to guide and love and enjoy, then we do those things that are pleasing in His sight. It will be easier then. We will do it willingly and with gladness. For for Him to enjoy us and delight in us, we must love and adore Him as fervently. 

The meaning and purpose of life is to be wholly God’s and to live in that truth.

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On Sacrifice {A Family Tale}

The daddy leaves for church on a Sunday morning, alone this time because the two kids, who sing in different choirs, Children’s and Youth, are both sick, but not after cooking food, chicken adobo for the kids (their Sunday staple) and sinigang (fish and fish roe in sour broth with vegetables) for the mommy. The teenage daughter comes down and settles in bed beside her mom (who has been ailing these past 14 years), feverish and with a headache. The almost-ten son is just recovering from chicken pox. By God’s grace, the pustules are just few and they are now flattening down and drying out. Except for those, he is well and roams around the house as usual.

This magenta rose still needs some polishing to make it more sleek, but art, though it brings so much joy and is freeing, it could also be a sacrifice. That is, for an ailing artist like me.

This magenta rose still needs some polishing to make it more sleek, but art, though it brings so much joy and is freeing, it could also be a sacrifice. That is, for an ailing artist like me.

The maid left a few days ago, and although she didn’t want to leave, she had no choice. Her teenage middle son stopped going to school because he wanted his mother to be home.

So, the family is alone at present because the employment agencies are vacant. They have nobody to send. Most maids are now found abroad. Greener pastures.

All Sunday, the little boy tended to both mother and sister (who are stationed in bed) while the father worshiped the Lord in church which is from 10 in the morning to 5 in the afternoon.

Maybe already tired, twice he brought to the bedroom the pot of dish itself to serve food to the sick. But the mommy is so very thankful for the food he served. It definitely brought sustenance to their weak bodies.

Although the kids are used to assisting their sick mom and have both learned how to respond and act on her signs when she is so unwell, they haven’t completely learned to not complain. The teenager may not voice out her complaints, but often, her face says it all. And the little boy? He complains incessantly when he is not his sweet self. For when he is sweet (for he is a very sweet boy, indeed), he’s an angel.

The mother thinks they complain because they believe that they should not be serving like that. Their classmates in the international school that they attend are probably not required to serve. For the mom has yet to see a home in the village they live in (and she knows for certain in the homes of her kids’ classmates) which doesn’t employ a maid or two.

The kids grew up having maids around, but the mommy believes that it should not hinder her desire to train them to help with chores. Whenever the family finds itself maidless, the kids know how to sweep and mop the floors, clean their rooms and bathrooms, wash dishes, cook, tend to the dogs, and answer to their mother’s calls. But this is nothing compared to her training growing up.

Many years ago in the province where life was generally hard and maids were unheard of, everyone in the family, except the baby in the cradle, helped. She doesn’t fail to tell these stories to the kids, how the wooden and untiled floors must be waxed, then scrubbed with a coconut husk to make them shine, would take almost half a day and all your strength. How water must be fetched from the well across the street, for washing, laundry, and bathing. How they all washed their clothes by hand including bleaching the cloth diapers of the baby under the powerful sunshine, because Pampers and Huggies were just a figment of the imagination.

But she doesn’t think that they completely absorb these stories. They are so farfetched from the life they have now. They don’t know the hard life in the province.

And so the mother, while waiting out for good breathing and strength with tightly closed eyes, wish so much in her heart to teach and model to her children the virtue of sacrifice. To let them know that life in the Lord Jesus Christ is entirely different from the life in the world, especialy their friends’ and classmates’ lives. That it’s okay to be different as long as the reason for it is because they are children of God and followers of the Lord Jesus and His teachings. That serving others, even sacrificing for them, is a part and a virtue of the Christian life.

She wishes to teach all these and she frets in her spirit for she knows that her strength is not enough for lengthy Bible Study and discussion. But the desire will serve as a goal for her to rise up and serve her family, especially her children, in the ways of the Lord.

How she longs to teach them, as she also has recently learned, that serving and sacrificing are things not to be despised or shunned but to be embraced. She wants them to understand, as she is just beginning to understand it herself, that the serving and sacrificing life is not hidden from the eyes of God, and that, it will be rewarded, if not in the here and now, in eternity.

She knows that her family longs to travel, to see the world, like all families dream and strive of doing. She knows that her family looks at the world, at other families in their neighborhood and in school, and so desires to be like them. And she used to feel that way, too. But now she understands that, to truly follow Christ is to denounce the pleasures of the world. That even though they enjoy its offerings from time to time, it is not their life. It is not their way of life. But that their life is centered on the Lord Jesus Christ who, though He owned heaven and earth and is the King of kings, chose to be born in a smelly stable.

She understands it now, like the breaking of dawn through the pink-purple sky, that the cause of all her woes is because she desired things other than what the Lord is offering. 

She knows sacrifice, but because of wealth, she and her family dream of pleasurable and beautiful things. She knows that silent service, where God maybe the only audience, makes life deeply meaningful and rewarding. 

She remembers the days how her two caregivers (also nannies to the kids), both cousins of her husband, took care of her, bathed and fed her when she was too weak. On two separate occasions when one of them was bathing her, she touched their heads and expressed her gratitude and declared that their acts of love will be rewarded by the Lord.

And that is what she wants to teach her children, that sacrifice is always an act of love and nothing but. That a service when done grudgingly loses its helping and healing power and it only leaves heaviness in the spirit of the recipient. When a service is done with heavy heart, hand, and words, it is futile in the end. 

It is always this:

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. (1 Cor. 13:3)

And to always remember the Lord’s words:

And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ (Mat. 25:40)

Every act of love, every sacrifice, we do it to Him and for Him.

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