Home 2

Home is where I’ve been and where I am at these many years. To be always home and unable to go anywhere else is not so bad, if you learn to accept the things that you don’t have the power to change. The secret is to learn to settle down and still be able to see the good things God is doing. Even in your small, limited world. Even in a few thousands square foot of ground.

home 2

When you’re unable to go anywhere else, you’ll be glad there is home. There is always home. The prodigal son learned this the painful way. And yet, home is where he found himself again.

We recently painted the outside walls with the faintest beige, almost an eggshell white when the sun shines on it, and the ironworks with warm sepia (well, that’s what I want to call it because it’s one of my favorite colors in my watercolor palette). When Felix brought home a color chart from the paint manufacturer, all three of us (me and the two kids) got so excited we each chose a color for our own bedrooms. Tim chose baby blue for his, telling us that the cream paint is already stained and that he wanted blue so much anyway and begged, “Please, please, please!” while jumping up and down with excitement. The daddy was silent for a while for he only planned to have the outside walls painted.

But then I ohhed and ahhed at the delicate Wisteria color, almost ethereal in my eyes, and I asked the husband, “Wouldn’t that be lovely for our room?” (Hannah wasn’t about to be left behind. She chose a very faint mint it almost looks like mist).

My poor husband was overpowered and ended up hiring four painters and bringing home gallons upon gallons of paint the colors of cotton candy (for the inside walls, that is, living, dining, and up to the family room, were painted light peach).

For a few weeks now, I stare at the blank Wisteria walls. The frames had not been re-hung for I gave instructions that the holes where thick nails had been bored be covered without any trace. They are now a blank canvas waiting to be adorned. I dream to paint wisteria on 12″ x 16″ watercolor paper, soon I hope, when I’m stronger (and feeling more confident).

In the late afternoons, when the sun is on the other side of the house and not peeking through the windows, the wisteria walls turn into a grey-lavenderish hue, like a smoke passing through.

I look, I observe, I hang my head at a certain angle, trying to capture something from the silence or the space that is all around me. My soul is trying to whisper, “God, where are You in all this? Is it only these walls and nothing else or am I too sentimental to think that You are trying to speak to me through these blank, unadorned walls, through these colors that look like vapor to my eyes? Is there something more, beyond what my eyes can see?”

When the only place you know and revolve around is home, bound by walls and mouldings and French windows and doors, you try to pull the Lord by the arm and invite Him in. Lord Jesus, please, come, sit awhile with me.

I admit I strain to make our home beautiful because it is the only place I can be. But I don’t want it to be only about the material things, the things that my eyes and heart can enjoy. I want it to be transformed into something that could reach and touch my soul. I want it to be a haven for my spirit and weak, ailing body. I want it to be a place for healing.

And that’s why I want to see God in all of it.

I had known the pain and desolation of not being able to see Him everywhere I looked, like He wanted to hide Himself from my vision and avoid the path where I had hoped to catch Him. Job had known this, this pain and hopelessness, ages before I had.

“Look, I go forward, but He is not there,
And backward, but I cannot perceive Him;
When He works on the left hand, I cannot behold Him;
When He turns to the right hand, I cannot see Him. (Job 23:8-9)

I don’t want to go back to that place. It’s a dismal, scary place to be.

What a big difference seeing Him in all things can do!

As summer comes bursting forth with its blustery heat and warm late-afternoon breezes, I sit in our patio and relish everything our garden offers. At this time of the year, the narra tree boasts of a thick canopy of green leaves and each year, I notice it ever expanding. One branch extends toward the patio roof, the tight  weaving of green kissing it and I can see it peeking through the fiber glass.

God is growing every living thing, adorning the deciduous tree with new coat and crown of leaves when its time comes. He’s ever sustaining, nurturing, giving increase. Even without our striving.

For the first time this year, the mango tree is bearing fruit. One branch is stooping low for heaviness of fruit and I wonder, if one is heavy with fruit, the posture is always bowed down low. I want to be like our mango tree.

It’s a day away from Resurrection Sunday as I write this. Our family did not plan to go anywhere during Lent since I couldn’t go with them anyway and the kids are going back to school afterwards (their school year is patterned to that of the USA). White sand beaches and pine trees-cooled lodges are a distant dream, for it would be too painful dwelling on them.

Felix put a big Intex pool in the garden. He bought it before the malls closed up for the Holy Week. Tim couldn’t contain his excitement. A few hours before midnight on Wednesday, when the kids had gone to bed, he went out and painstakingly set it up, the instruction manual spread out before him. Around 1 in the morning, water was already filling it up. Still, he got up early, when the sun had not yet chased away the indigo-tinted morning. He wanted that the pool was full before Tim saw it. Not an easy task since the pool is quite big, a rectangle of blue sitting audaciously on a swath of green.

Home. Home is where the love of the Father resides. Never waning, never leaving, never failing.

“And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours.” (Luke 15:31)

Tim babbles endlessly in the pool for happiness. He’s so excited and happy he won’t stop talking while splashing and swimming. I don’t stop him. I think that if I closed my eyes, it would be the same sound I would hear if we were in the beach or a lodge secluded by evergreens. And all these, every single morsel of it, I gather them like the Israelites of old gathered manna. This here is food for my hungering soul.

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That Our Joy May Be Full

When was the last time that your joy was full? I mean, in every sense of the word “full”? No part fear, no part sorrow. No lack, no traces of longing or dissatisfaction somewhere deep inside. You are content and your joy is pure and unsullied. Maybe for you, it was last Christmas or yesterday or this morning. For me, I can’t remember the last time. It was too long ago, a time when good health was mine to enjoy. For even when my son was born, a day I would have celebrated with trumpets blowing, sorrow filled my heart. I was blessed with a beautiful, healthy baby boy, but I was too sick and weak to relish the moment. Instead of my heart being filled with joy, it was filled with fear. It has been that way since my health was stolen and in its place is sickness and suffering: joy mixed with sorrow. If that were even possible.

This was just a super quick doodle on my mixed media journal. But if you look closer, notice the metallic gold, copper, and ruby on the petals’ and leaves’ edges. For aren’t answered prayers and fulfilled dreams like gilded things?

Since around Christmas last year, I had been feeling depleted and running on low (if not empty). I couldn’t seem to put my heart and mind into a place where I could move in a steady rhythm once again and with some measure of contentment and joy. So, I just let myself float and wait for fresh grace and inspiration to come. Although all that time, I continued steadfastly in prayer.

The night I started to write this, I felt some sense of peace and courage flowing in to continue to serve the Lord with all I am and to love Him just as much. In a subtle, almost imperceptible way, I felt a fresh and much deeper still commitment to do those things that are pleasing in God’s eyes creeping into my heart, spreading quietly but surely. I needed that fresh watering of my soul for I had been writing on my prayer journal, asking the Lord to not let me grow cynical.

I remembered the Lord Jesus’ words —

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Mat. 11:28)

“…he who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35)

His love and words woo us back to Him, faithfully and fervently abiding in Him.

I was revived, rekindled, and wooed back into the happy place of loving and following the Lord Jesus Christ. It didn’t come like a rushing wind, or a mighty fire from heaven, or a flood that swept me. It came like a soft feather caressing my face, like a warm flannel gently wrapped around me by unseen hands. I had to strain my ears to listen, to make sure it was there alright.

When I woke up the next morning, my soul whispered, “I love You, my Father, my dearest Lord Jesus Christ”, even before I opened my eyes.

I know, it is well with my soul.

Sometimes when I desire so much to get well and be able to go out, doing the things I’ve been so wanting to do, like traveling and testifying of the grace and mercy of God, a voice whispers in my mind. It tempts me to feel guilty asking for those things that will make me full of joy. Most of the time, it succeeds. I listen, and then feel guilty. But when I reached John 16, I was freed through the Lord’s words. Surely, I have read it numerous times before, but this time, it took on a new color, the very thing that I needed.

“…ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:24)

That voice in my head has been lying, for the Lord Jesus tells me differently.

It’s okay to not feel joy-full when we’re deeply longing for something, like healing perhaps. We need not feel guilty if we feel sorrow not receiving the things we so desire. That doesn’t make us ungrateful. And yes, it’s okay to desire the things that will do us a world of good. Even the Lord knows that it’s only when we have received what we asked for that our joy may be full. He’s saying that, until we ask and receive it, its absence in our lives leaves much to be desired and our joy is not complete.

It’s okay to desire and ask and believe that whatever we’re asking for from His hand will make us full of joy.

A healing.

A child.

A friend.

A love.

A yes.

A relationship mended.

A marriage repaired.

A family restored.

A loved one’s salvation.

A place visited.

A dream fulfilled.

Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.(1 John 5:14-15)

Because, you know what? He’s all there. He is in that place where our joy becomes full. He is there waiting to give it to us, to rejoice with us in the receiving.

Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.

The Lord is inviting us, encouraging us, beckoning to us with His outstretched hands.

Ask.

Receive.

Be joy-full.

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Remember Grace

One late at night last week while Felix was away in the province and I was alone in our room, the enemy attacked all of a sudden. It started with labored breathing, then my insides shook like when you feel really cold. But my two layers of blanket couldn’t reach to the core of my body to warm it. The shaking and weakness spread to my legs until they seemed lifeless. The twitching muscles made them limp. I wanted to just curl up and let the strange suffering pass, but I couldn’t do that either. I tried to vomit to relieve me, but the shaking inside continued, from my belly, sides, and up to my abdomen. While sitting up, I raised my hand and prayed and begged God to heal me and relieve me of what I was experiencing, then I cast out the demons of illness that were attacking me. I was becoming scared. I lay back on my pillows, put my Bible under me, turned off the aircon (although the room wasn’t that cold), covered myself with my blankets, then forced myself to lie still in a prone position. My heart was beating fast which was making me feel exhausted. There was nothing more I could do but to wait for the mercy of God.

TULIPS IN BLUE AND WHITE VASE. My watercolor painting on 9" x 12" wc paper.

TULIPS IN BLUE AND WHITE VASE. My watercolor painting on 9″ x 12″ wc paper.

This kind of suffering, in all of its forms and insidiousness, has been a part of my life these past 13 years. There are times I wanted to wave my fist at it, at the unseen demons lurking in space, and challenge them to battle, but what good would that do? I want to pound the demons of illness and suffering to pieces, if only I could see what I am up against. This suffering, it leaves a bad and bitter taste in my mouth that I want to spew out once and for all. If only spitting it out would do the trick.

(My scary experience that night reenforced my perseverance in casting out demons of sickness and suffering in full faith and power and authority in Jesus’ name and not to grow faint and give in to the devil’s wishes).

That night, after waiting out for the shaking to stop and for my insides to settle and my heart to beat normally, it finally came after more than half an hour or so. My heart gradually returned to its normal beating and I felt my whole body warm up. The feeling was almost heavenly and I was lulled to sleep because of the warmth and exhaustion.

There had been such episodes of warmth and peace before, healing moments I call them, when the relief from suffering felt like I was being lifted up from the bed and rocked gently in the clouds to sleep. I remembered them then before I succumbed to a peaceful slumber.

In the morning when I woke up, I remembered the suffering of the night before. In my mind, I gave form to the subconscious thoughts that have always plagued me these many years of suffering so much.

Does God really love me? If He does, why does He let me suffer so much and this long? Is He always angry at me? Unfavorable? Displeased? Why does He punish me so severely and would not relent?

But even as I entertained these bitter thoughts, wisdom was squeezing itself hard into the forefront of my brain, wanting to be heard.

Does not wisdom cry out,
And understanding lift up her voice? (Prov. 8:1)

I listened to wisdom and truth enveloped my whole being.

It is not God who is making me suffer. God isn’t my enemy, the devil is. God, who loves me with an everlasting love, will not do that to me, will not punish me until I am crying out for mercy. He doesn’t take pleasure in inflicting me pain. The devil does.

The Lord is merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. (Ps. 103:8)

I took hold of the truth even as it took hold of me. I sat up and raised my hands toward heaven and said,

Father in heaven, in Your name my dearest Lord Jesus Christ. You are a merciful God, compassionate and full of grace. You loved me even when I was a sinner and unworthy of Your love. You cared for me so much You poured out Your love and life on Calvary. You saved me from hell because I matter to You. It is not You who are making me suffer for You are good and faithful to me.

I remember Your grace poured out upon me and I know You love me.

After the storm, the birds come out of hiding to sing. They don’t wave their fists toward heaven and rant why their nests fell to the ground and their young left pitifully as the storm battered and buffeted them. The flowers open up towards the sun slowly emerging out of the parting clouds, greeting the world and their Creator with their radiant faces.

Humans lament and complain.

Remember grace.

Grace poured out upon us beyond measure, more than 2000 years ago, even before Calvary. On a holy, chilly night in the hill country.

10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:10-14, emphasis added)

good tidings of great joy

peace

goodwill to all men

They all spell G-R-A-C-E.

The spouse, a family member, a friend, or a co-worker hurt you and made you cry because of his/her ill treatment of you? Cry some. Pray big. Fully forgive. Remember grace.

Grace received, grace given away.

Where sin abounds, grace abounds much more (see Rom. 5:20).

Grace is the channel through which all God’s blessings flow.

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To a Desert Place

On an early morning a few days before my birthday, I woke up feeling like my heart and body had remembered that there was a reason for my melancholy, like they were hurting all over, not physically, but emotionally. Does that happen to you, too? Even before your mind has processed what is wrong, your heart and body experience it already. There had been a reason for the heaviness of my heart, but on that Thursday morning, I was compelled to make a decision even before I opened my eyes. I accompanied my decision with a prayer of release against my pillow.

My watercolor painting of a deserted beach at sunset on 9" x 12" 140lb, cotton wc paper. (Reference photo from total-embodiment.tumblr.com

My watercolor painting of a deserted beach at sunset on 9″ x 12″ 140lb, cotton wc paper. (Reference photo from total-embodiment.tumblr.com

Sometimes it happens that the thing that is so close to our heart must be released, when we perceive in our spirit that it may not be God’s will. Or He’s silent about it. Or He’s not into it with us. Yes, even those things which we have carefully planned and crafted and dedicated to His name that we thought He would approve and support. I had been praying fervently for God to bless something I had dedicated to Him, something that I knew would make me happy and bring my life fulfilment. And Him glory and service. But a few months into the project, He was silent and He wasn’t lifting a finger to prosper it.

When I finally released it and told Him I was going to give it up and wait for His word, I felt like a weight had been lifted off my heart.

Sometimes we craft ways to usher in happiness to our lives, but when we can’t get God on board, we may feel that He’s withholding it from us. Thankfully, that wasn’t what I felt in this case. I was relieved to give up something that had kept Him silent and was humble to wait what He had to say about it. Or what He had in store for me. Maybe He had better, greater, more wonderful things in mind for me.

That is faith and great expectations in Him :) .

Later that day, though I was sad because my plan didn’t pan out, I was closely leaning in and listening to that still, small voice. And it came without delay. At first, it was an invitation, a whisper to my soul to come with Him into a desert place and rest awhile. 

I was more than happy to oblige. I needed it. I needed to stop the analyzing, designing, planning for my happiness. The Lord Jesus just wanted me to rest awhile with Him. He wanted me to get away from all my strivings, the noise of my heart and mind and the world around me. Even if that world is so small.

Sometimes we believe that our beautiful dreams and best-laid plans are the best for us, especially when we offer them to God as our way of honoring and serving Him. But in this case, the Lord made me understand that I need not go to such length, or exchange Him for my dreams. He is enough.

To obey is better than sacrifice [and all our other attempts at offering], and to hearken than plunging into our projects that look pretty and bring us snippets of happiness.

Most of the time we don’t understand. But faith is to follow our Good Shepherd wherever he leads and to believe that the adventure He has planned for us is more wonderful, more exhilarating, beyond anything we ever dreamed or imagined or crafted. His plan is always perfect, unlike ours which often has loopholes.

So when He bids us into the desert place, we go. It is where He shows His wonders: leading us with the cloud of His constant presence by day and a burning light by night; parting the seemingly impossible obstacles so we could walk through them; raining on us fine showers of blessings that we often take for granted, which we can only appreciate if we go out and gather them and wonder. It is where He opens our eyes – when it seems to us there is only defeat – to see that we have limitless resource in Him. And we shall never want.

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel,
“In returning and rest you shall be saved;
    in quietness and in trust shall be your strength…” (Is. 30:15) 

The desert place, not necessarily an endless expanse of golden sands, is a quiet place where we can find our God and Father. A deserted place where there is no wifi, no access to social media, away from the noise and distractions of the world, its envy, covetousness, comparisons, competitions. But only Him, bidding us to find that stairs that is unrolled from heaven to earth.

He bids us to come. Closer to Him. And rest at His feet as Mary of Bethany has done. To know that one needful thing and choose that good part, which shall not be taken away from us (see Luke 10:42). 

The Lord wants to unentangle us from the cares of the world, even if those cares are not of the magnitude of worldly pursuits. Even if those cares are pleasant dreams and godly goals. Still, He wants that He is first and foremost in our lives. That He is the One who will give those dreams and plans and projects. That He will be the One to plan our happiness. Didn’t He admonish Martha of all her fussing?

And Jesus answered and said unto her, “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful… ” (Luke 10:41-42)

One thing is needful. Yet we often miss it. One thing is needful, yet we often ignore it. One thing is needful, yet we often choose what we want. One thing is needful, yet we often trade that with fleeting happiness. One thing is needful, yet we are sometimes blind, deaf, and numb to it.

One thing is needful and it is where our Savior God bids us to.

Where is your desert place? Where is your wilderness where you can hear God’s still, small voice more clearly?

I can’t go out of our house. I can only go as far as our patio which connects to our garden. But it suffices. As I write this, I sit here in our patio surrounded with quiet, with only the twittering birds somewhere among the thick foliage of the trees. And I like that. Earlier, a strong breeze swept off the fallen leaves from the trellis roof above me. They fell on the grass below like a shower of confetti. I looked up from my laptop to witness and feel the breeze swirl all around me. For a moment I thought the Lord was making His presence felt in a subtle yet un-ignorable display.

Here in our patio where trees on every side afford me seclusion – narra tree on the north, mango tree on the south, and santol tree on the west – I find my desert place where I can rest awhile with my Lord Jesus.

It was around my birthday (October 2) when I received the replacement of the thing that I had to give up. And it was glorious in my eyes! (More on that next time :) ).

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Journey with Jesus,

My Treasure Chest

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

gems-2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am very rich.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I sobbed in gratitude and awe.

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

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

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Journey with Jesus,

Immeasurable

The day Felix and the kids went to Timberland for a day of swimming and breathing in nature, I finished my watercolor painting of poppies and then baked chicken BBQ buns. I didn’t want to think about how it could have been so lovely going with them and enjoying together the things the place had to offer. Timberland Sport and Nature Club is situated on top of the mountains of San Mateo, Rizal. The place overlooks the whole metropolis down below and neighboring mountains. The olympic-sized, infinity pool makes you feel like you’re on the edge of the earth :) . There’s an al fresco cafe and I wanted to imagine my husband and I enjoying some refreshments while the kids swam, the cool mountain breeze and resplendent view invigorating us.

immeasurable

But it was very quiet at home and in the quiet, I blocked all the “if only” thoughts and focused on the activities God gave me to accomplish on that day. He laced it with fresh inspiration yet again, balancing the melancholy with the joy of creating something: I would be baking buns and half of them I would send to our beloved pastor who has been weak and recuperating these past months. I also received inspiration to wrap birthday gifts for a hardworking couple in church who lead the choir. We have been blessed to be able to give, and giving gifts, however simple, has inspired me anew.

I recently wrote that when we learn to dwell in the everyday gifts of God and immerse ourselves in gratefulness and intentional thankfulness, our unsatisfied desires that threaten to undo us would turn to deep satiety in Him we never knew was possible. And indeed, the Lord is faithfully doing exactly that.

I also wrote sometime ago about my life flowing in trickles. I remember that again when Felix was assisting me bathe in my new clawed feet bathtub. He has to carry me from my wheelchair to the bathtub and back again after soaking in warm, scented waters for at least 30 minutes. It’s not easy for both of us (I’m quite heavy and though he exercises everyday, he still needs to exert a lot of muscle), but we are both grateful. On one of those bathroom episodes, while I basked in the aftermath of a warm, lavender bath, I commented, “Oh, thank You, dearest Lord Jesus! I’m so happy. So Dy, a little bath here, a little happiness there. I paint a little, bake a little, decorate the house a little… My life flowing in trickles and I can’t complain!”

A continuous trickle of life and blessings – I am deeply grateful.

I have discovered that the more we thank the Lord sincerely with all our heart, the more He draws us closer to Him. And when we are closer to Him, His blessings, though flowing in trickles, are magnified in such a way that they become bigger than our longings and desires. They become sources of great joy and gratitude so high and wide and deep they are immeasurable!

When Felix and the kids were away in Pampanga for the wedding of a young couple from Church, the threat of loneliness and bitterness hovered over me once again. My husband and I were principal sponsors and Tim was Bible bearer. The bride’s mother was a former employee of our company and who also happens to be my friend and the one who brought me to Jesus. So, we wanted to be present.

I persuaded Hannah, now a 15-year-old young adult who stands up to her Dad’s jaw, to be my proxy. After negotiations involving a promise of a Sakura watercolor set, she agreed. I had a full-lace, peach dress made for her, a new pair of quite expensive sleek heels, and a matching evening purse. She didn’t gloat as much as I did on those things, mind you (unlike me, she doesn’t have a single fashionista bone in her body 😀 ). But she was representing me and would be walking alongside her Dad on the aisle, so I didn’t want her looking shabby.

As we prepared on the wedding day, wistful thoughts came in and out of my mind, but I shoved them aside. Daddy and son were dapper in their suits. Wouldn’t it have been blissful if I were well and went with them with my own beautiful lace dress, walking with my husband, my hand wrapped around the crook of his arm?

My three loves at the wedding - The Lakeshore, Pampanga.

My three loves at the wedding – The Lakeshore, Pampanga.

It was a lakeside-and-wharf-themed wedding held at The Lakeshore Promenade in Mexico, Pampanga. How lovely is that? I wanted to be there, but I refused to think about the “what might have been” had I been well. The tempter came and tried to sow bitterness, saying, “How can you remain at peace with God when He denies the very things your soul so desires? How can you not be bitter against Him?”

I shook the thoughts away and shooed the pesky demon by not falling into his baits and taunts. I had been through enough pity parties and bitter sulks against God, I knew better.

And I have not forgotten my story. When the Lord Jesus found me, I was just out of a sinful relationship I barely survived, wrecking our family and another’s in the process. I was dying in my sin.

But Jesus came mightily with His love and light and the rest is history. His story, actually. All our salvation stories and testimonies are His. He has been writing them before the foundation of the world.

Now, He gives me enduring peace and joy that the world doesn’t understand. I feel loved by Him despite of lingering illness and physical difficulties. Do I have the license to be bitter after all He has done, saving me, wiping out all my sins, restoring my family, and sealing me for eternity, just because I”m not walking, running, or traveling as other people do? None whatsoever! His love is enough! We need to realize and understand that Jesus is enough and always will be. Can one attempt to measure Jesus’ love? Can one set boundaries to it?

It’s true that even at this hour, I’m still trying to know and grasp the width and length and depth and height of the love of Christ which passes knowledge (see Ephesians 3: 17-19). During those times of utter physical suffering, I secretly and silently questioned it in the depths of my soul. But now, He has translated the language of His love into something that I can comprehend, appreciate, and enjoy – healing (though partial), strength (both physical and spiritual), lessons learned (that would last me ’til eternity!), and joy overflowing!

With His latest gift to me – watercolor painting – He brings me fresh inspiration with each waking moment, filling my heart with bubbling eagerness to a promise of yet another day of vibrant colors and splashes that become beautiful works of art, sending my spirit into silently shouting, “Your compassions never fail! They are new every morning. Great is Thy faithfulness!”

If we learn to dwell in the place of active and intentional thankfulness, the things that seem to be lacking in our lives are dwarfed and eventually become insignificant, as we learn to look not at the things that are temporal but at the things that are eternal.

(Photo from Pinterest).

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Journey with Jesus,

The Gathering Table

I know breakfasts and snack times would be fun around our granite island in the kitchen, flipping pancakes and drizzling waffles with golden syrup in the nearby counters and stove. But it’s too far for me even with my wheelchair. Our main dining room which is very rarely used would also be an stylish place to celebrate special occasions, but I’m not comfortable there for a long period of time. Sometimes when I’m feeling extraordinarily well and have enough courage and excitement to go out of our bedroom, the center table in the living room is a nice place to gather with my people to celebrate. I would be reclining on the sofa while they sit on the carpet around the table, Japanese-style. But that only happens once or twice a year.

gathering_table

So, there’s this mobile table that I had it custom-made some years ago for our bedroom. Actually, it’s a mobile kitchen and dining table in one. When I’m well and strong prodded by an inspiration to feed my family with home-cooked goodness, I cook on it using a single-burner electric stove or grill. Often, it’s a preparation area for whatever we’re baking. But everyday, we gather around it to eat, sip tea, talk, play, paint, craft. It has carved its own place in our home, like a hearth. Or an old faithful dog. Always there to serve. Always waiting for the next gathering.

Because of my health condition, that mobile table has become the gathering table for our family through the years. It’s not only a physical gathering, but I believe, a spiritual one as we partake in the food and laughter and love and the hovering presence of our Lord Jesus Christ. So, it’s not only a simple partaking for physical nourishment, but also a fellowship with Him who provides it all: the family, the love, the joy, the connection. It is a rejoicing and celebration with Him.

Our gathering table is a table of thanksgiving. I cannot count the times that we have lifted up praises and thanksgiving to God around it for the blessings, answered prayers, and victories, hearts full. Just simply, His goodness and faithfulness. And always, remembering to invite Him into our celebrations (He’s the very reason for them!) is remembering to strengthen the ties that bind us to His Kingdom and with each other. If we believe that God’s presence is everywhere, then He’s present in our celebrations, too. He sits with us, dines with us, and even laughs with us.

So you shall rejoice in every good thing which the Lord your God has given to you and your house… (Deut. 26:11)

The story of our gathering table began years ago when our family was brittle, hurting, almost divided, the mended seams gaping open in some places. We were grappling with the change in our lives: struggling to follow Jesus’ and our Church’s teachings, to be pleasing to Him in how we live our new lives. And of course, there were my terrifying illness, the company which my husband took over and the many complexities and responsibilities that came with it, and the confusions and stresses that glued them all together so that we were weak against them. (And truth be told, the old and ugly attitudes of the “old man” were still clinging fast on us :(. I admit we were slow in bearing fruits).

My husband would often leave the house for the office after a painful, often ugly, disagreement, leaving me hurt and bewildered. Sometimes even young Hannah would receive sharp words from him and we would be clinging to each other after he had left, me, holding her tight, hoping that the words would be squeezed out of her pores. It was during these times that I intentionally stood up against the works of the devil in our lives: the strifes, the ugly and hurtful exchange of words, the heaviness, the pure misery. It was exactly these same things that drove me to rise up in victory, to create “beauty” in the face of the ugly. So, I would use every ounce of strength I had to prepare delicious food for the family and gather them around the table to humble ourselves before God, to tell Him about our miseries, and ask Him to turn the “ashes” into something beautiful. To transform the ugliness, darkness, and coldness that surrounded us into His light, love, and joy. We celebrated with the Lord to shake off the frolicking demons and trample them under our feet!

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! (Phil. 4:4)

Often, there were only the three of us gathered around: little girl Hannah, toddler Tim, and me. But I was thankful for those moments. I wanted our children to know and feel that love resided in our home. No matter what. The love and mercy of the Lord, His very presence – it’s what eases away the stinky, stinging,  black smoke of unkindness and harshness. The absence or lack of love among us.

Jesus’ love covers all our sins.

There were lasagna, grilled chicken, home-baked bread, ice cream, and any food that I believed the kids would like and appreciate. I would encourage them to smile. Laugh even. Yes, before long we would be laughing, pushing further away the hurts and the memory of them. And we were healed.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. (Ps. 147:3)

So, our table had been a faithful witness to it all: the tears, the prayers, the persevering faith and hope. The love as fragile as thin ice over a frozen lake. With a single cold, hurtful word, it just might crack again.

That was the history of our gathering table, made sturdy with the stories of our individual lives and those of our family as a whole.

But in recent years, as dark clouds gave way to shimmering light, our gathering table has heard more laughter than it could take. The stories – funny, heartwarming, uplifting, meaningful, lessons-filled – are ingrained into the wood, creating a patina that makes its hue deeper and more homey. Like a grandmother’s embrace. Or an old friend’s.

But it’s not really about the furniture, is it? It’s not the wood, its grain pattern, or its hue. It’s really the power of God’s love that binds and draws us closer together around it. Subdued. Expectant. Grateful. Celebratory. It is sacred in its purpose and function. So, it doesn’t need to be our mobile table, our kitchen’s granite island, or our formal dining table. Wherever we are gathered around, there is family, community, and fellowship with the Lord’s Spirit.

“For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” (Mat. 18:20)

Recently, when the family was all agog because Hannah and Tim both received medals in academic excellence in school during the year-end Reading of Honors, our gathering table beckoned and I thought, “We need to celebrate and invite our one and only Guest of Honor.” Around the table, when we raised up our hands toward heaven and I recited a thanksgiving prayer, tears pooled in my eyes. The goodness and faithfulness of the Lord in our life are so very precious to us. And we invited Him to our table to partake in the joyous celebration.

What does your “gathering table” look like? What is its story? Its history? If it could talk, what would it tell?

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Journey with Jesus,

Steadfastness

I should be writing about joy. I was so excited to pursue the subject that I had begun researching and listing Bible verses. I wasn’t only inspired, my hope received a fresh brushing up also. For days and nights, the words formed themselves into sentences and the sentences arranged themselves into paragraphs in my mind. “Okay,” I told myself. “Joy it will be for Writing Monday.”

steadfastness

Then Sunday came and I found myself lying in a prone position (again!), waiting for my labored breathing to ease up. The suffering was long and wearying. It was the antithesis of my fervent prayers for wellness and strength I particularly prayed for that day. “I can’t write about joy. At least, not at this time,” I thought as I fought the negative emotions that were hovering at the doors of my mind. “Shall I be angry? Shall I be discouraged? Shall I give up already?” These emotions are old, as far as I’m concerned, and even they have lost their appeal to me. Before I completely gave up on those self-defeating thoughts, a pained question passed over my mind, “Are You walking with me, Lord?”

My thoughts shifted to: “I will write about a God-honoring life.” My mind toyed with the idea as I waited for good breathing. But after a while, I gave it up. That, too, seemed a Herculean task (as far as inspiration is concerned) when placed side by side with my suffering body. “I pray that my life will always honor God however hard I’m going through. But I can’t write about that now, either,” I thought with finality and a sigh.

Suddenly, the scene on the Prophet Elijah fleeing from Jezebel unfolded in my mind. I am no prophet but I wanted to compare my situation with his. He had been very zealous for God, and now, they sought to kill him. He sat under a broom tree and sulked and wished that he could just die. Elijah waited but God wasn’t in the strong wind; He wasn’t in the earthquake either; neither was He in the fire. Then, he heard His still, small voice. (See 1 Kings 19).

In the midst of my strong winds of suffering, I couldn’t write about joy; neither could I write about a subject as lofty as ‘a God-honoring life’ while fierce shaking continues to jolt me in my long, fiery trial. Then a still, small voice whispered, steadfastness. “Yes, maybe that I can write about,” my heart answered.

Steadfastness is the state of being “firm in purpose, resolution, faith, attachment, etc.” To be steadfast is to be unwavering. Yet, not all Christians are steadily strong and immovable, especially during season of hard testing. I myself have encountered all sorts of challenges against my steadfastness, but though these have tried to topple me (at times, the struggle is so great to the point of a temporary spiritual crisis), the Lord has always held me fast.

When I said, “My foot is slipping,”
    your unfailing love, Lord, supported me.
When anxiety was great within me,
    your consolation brought me joy. (Ps. 94:18-19 NIV)

He is faithful to His promise:

I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. (Heb. 13:5)

But though His promises stand, we need to do our part. In fact, much work needs to be done: unceasing prayers (sometimes with fasting), being rooted in the Word, closely walking in the Spirit, and never losing sight of God’s perfect will. But sometimes we grow faint even with prayer, especially when there is only barren land as far as our eyes can see. In trials, patience tends to thin out into a fragile film that it is just hard to take hold of it without it breaking in our hands.

The Lord knows it, that’s why it was necessary for Him to tell a story about being persistent in prayer (see Luke 18:1-8). Also, St. James teaches that the development of patience is the very purpose of trials and reminds us that there is a blessing at the end of our faithful endurance.

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)

My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful. (James 5: 10-12)

Below is a simple diagram we can remember in cultivating steadfastness in our lives with the Holy Spirit and Word of God acting as catalysts:

Perseverance + patience = steadfastness

Steadfastness is a combination of these but what does it really look like? I wish that, for me, it always looked like a young maiden in the peak of health who sings praises to God like there’s no tomorrow, who worships without any reservation, and who humbly bends the knees in fervent prayer, steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that [her] labor is not in vain in the Lord (1 Cor. 15:58); she walks with a spring in her step! But truth be told, my steadfastness sometimes takes on the form of a middle-aged woman, stooped due to gnawing worries and anxieties that are never completely banished, and who trudges through life as if walking on sodden sand.

That’s why we should always desire to seek revival for our souls. We need not wait for a Churchwide revival. On our own, in our private worship, we can be revived. That is the desire and will of God for us.

For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. (Rom. 14:17)

The kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. Making this as our guidepost, we will not lose sight of the kingdom of God, and in fact, we will learn to live at the center of it.

One Sunday service, I was gifted with an epiphany. When the preacher said that God had made everything perfect in paradise where Adam and Eve were supposed to have lived all their lives, a vision of a kingdom-centered life opened up in the scenery of my mind like Eden herself flinging her shining, gilded doors wide open:

What if we lived like we were already in the kingdom of God where everything is perfect? Then we would live in His perfect will, His perfect love, peace, and joy.

In God’s kingdom, fear can’t exist. There, the devil wouldn’t have a foothold in our lives. What if, unlike Eve, we would not listen to the devil’s temptings and lies but live on the side of God’s perfectness? Life in the kingdom, here and now, would be filled with joy.

In God’s paradise, fights and hurts do not exist. If we live as kingdom people, these things would no longer matter to us. We can easily forgive and forget and go to sleep in peace with a smile gracing our lips.

We can live as kingdom people through the power of the Holy Spirit that dwells in us.. These scenarios are all possible for our citizenship is in heaven (see Phil. 3:20) and God raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (see Eph. 2:6).

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Journey with Jesus,

Quiet Places

After a whole year of recovering and settling back into my old normal (no more daily hard struggles between life and the shadow of death), the Lord filled me with so much joy and blessings, both tangible and intangible, that I realized one day I wanted to dance and twirl and laugh and shout in happiness and thanksgiving. He has blessed me beginning on my birthday in October (I was able to get up and get dressed and join the family in our simple celebration). Then there was the birthday of my son Tim in early December. Although uninvited 😀 (but I was grateful they came!), my sister and niece traveled from the province to celebrate with him, together with my brother. We had a little party. We laughed and took photos and videos. I had the stamina to enjoy all that.

quiet places

A few days before Christmas was my husband’s birthday. I donned on a new white flowy shirt and a new maxi dark denim skirt (these articles of clothing had been in my closet for months waiting for me to be well enough to wear them) and had a decent photo of myself taken (after a very long time!). It makes me happy when I am able to play dress up, put on a little makeup and have my photo taken :). For me it’s a testimony of God’s enduring mercies.

So we set up the table – placed my gold-leafed, alabaster and crystal candlestick (a Christmas gift from hubby which he bought from our favorite antiques/secondhand shop) with a tall, slim gold candle regally standing on top and a vase of deep-red roses. We brought out the only-for-special-occasion China and colored glasses. And so we celebrated my husband’s birthday in love, thanksgiving, and joy.

On Christmas Eve, I was able to go out to our living room and celebrated with family until the wee hours of the morning. We set up our formal dining table regally (although we ended up eating in the living room :D). We took photos and selfies (groupies?) and opened gifts. On Christmas morning, we had “boodle brunch”. We laid banana leaves on the table, arranged fried rice, boiled greens and veggies, and 4 kinds of salted, dried seafood. And so we celebrated Christmas Day.

During the holidays, the kids and I baked sugar cookies (yes, I can bake again!) in the shapes of J-O-Y and stars and snowflakes and decorated them with royal icing and gold and silver beads. Hubby had to travel to Mandaluyong, 2 cities away from our place, to buy the beads (the cookies were serious business!). And on New Year’s Eve, I wasn’t fighting between life and death, but watched the fireworks in our yard that hubby lit up.

These all seem ordinary to people who are not ill, but for me, it’s a tremendous blessing! Actually, other people’s reality is my wildest dreams! People who regularly read my stories on my blog may say, “How could she be so grateful in the midst of all her trials?” Well, it’s a case of the “half-full/half-empty glass” again. I don’t even see myself as half-full, but full! The Lord Jesus Christ fills my cup! And that was why I felt like shouting on the housetops! As my Tim says, “You feel so excited it’s like you want to pee already!”

But I sense deep within me that the Holy Spirit is whispering, “Come away. Retreat from all the noise of the world.” (That means my FB world which is the only secular world I know considering that I can’t go out). I have been sensing that admonition for months, to step back and let not myself be drenched with so much secularism, even only via FB, and be immersed with spiritual things instead. And though it’s quite hard to avoid communicating via FB, I’m heeding the Lord’s voice.

Sobering things come to temper our “loudness” (because maybe we think we’re giving God all the glory but are actually sharing in the limelight). In such times, I’m always reminded by the collectedness of Mary. In the midst of the frenzy of Jesus’ birth – the shepherds rushing to the site to worship the Baby King and telling everyone how His birth and purpose had been announced by an angel from heaven – the Bible says that Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).

There is a time to shout out our praises and thanksgiving to all the world; and there is a time to keep them all in our heart and ponder them. There is a time to waltz in our triumphs; and there is a time to step back and relish quiet moments with the Lord. He is whispering, Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31).

The Holy Spirit whispers and invites us to retreat and come away with Him to quiet places where our souls are refreshed anew, drinking in the spring of water welling up to eternal life (see John 4). Far from the madding crowd, we can hear and discern more clearly God’s voice and what He wants to tell us. We can better see the path He’s laying out before us. In the quiet place where the Lord Jesus meets with us, we can prove His acceptable and perfect will for us:

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Rom. 12:2)

In those quiet places, we can spend time in retrospection, enough to learn from the lessons of the recent past, and be guided not to repeat the same mistakes in the future. It is a time of self-examination and drawing nearer to God through worship, prayer, and the Word, and baring our heart and soul before Him (He knows our hearts better than we do).

In that place where we give of our whole selves, we not only immerse into deeper communion with God, but we also find rest for our weary souls and bodies as we breathe Him freely and lavishly and exhale the world’s toxicity. We let our soul and senses absorb God’s gifts around us – the cheerful warbling and flitting of birds among the trees, the gentle breeze that caresses our skin, the blades of grass that tickle our bare feet, the sheer quietness of our surroundings we can almost hear the bugs crawling!

And we would feel once again the fierce, undying love of Jesus like a tight embrace.

(Photo credit: Tamzinsketchbook via Flickr and Pinterest).

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Journey with Jesus,

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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