God’s Comfort and Strength

A poem for the sorrowing soul.

 

God’s Comfort and Strength

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Joy is great

But sorrow pushes deeper

Into God’s bosom

A gateway to grace.

 

Sorrow is a shadow

That walks with one

And urges on toward

The Lord’s waiting arms.

 

Sorrow works repentance

Humbling down and tears

And plunging oneself

At Jesus’ feet.

 

My deepest need

For comfort and strength

Stokes the fire within

Makes love burn afresh.

 

Sorrow colors

My praise and worship

Drives me to touch

All heaven’s gates.

 

I’m like a bird

That hovers over

Sorrow’s sea

Not wanting to land

For I am weak, you see.

 

But God whispers

“My strength

Is made perfect

In your weakness

So, lean closer

And trust deeper

I am your rest.”

 

Is it even possible

To just fly away

Under the shadow

Of God’s wings

Where I hide myself

And pain can never reach?

 

I cry out

For the Savior’s light

For in Him darkness

Cannot ever abide.

 

And so He makes me

Afloat in His mercy

And in the power

Of His great love.

 

God’s love never fails

Never wanes, never leaves

Never dries up

Like a river it flows

Untiring, unending

Its healing power

Alive, ever moving

Both now and forever.

 
(On the occasion of my BFF’s passing).
 
 

 

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The Gift of Joy and Happiness

I have been flooded with joy and happiness lately, the kind which stays with you and makes you alive and eager with expectation even though you’re still ailing and weak. I stopped and considered, then I understood: this joy and happiness is the fruit of my healing from my horrible bundle that had gripped me for so long. Again I say, we may think that our relationship with God is fine and smooth sailing (because, well, we continue to do those things that we do for Him), but underneath, really, really deep down in our heart and soul – there might be something that needs healing. There might be deep-seated resentments or rebellion or cynicism that needs to be excavated and examined. And when they are out in the open, when they are on our palm humbly offering them to the Savior, wholeness will come. As it came to me.

These flowers are quite unfinished but that's as far as I could go for I am suffering from a very painful and stiff back right now. But I'm happy with how it turned out, painting those pistils gold instead of green :) .

These flowers are quite unfinished but that’s as far as I could go for I am suffering from a very painful and stiff back right now. But I’m happy with how it turned out, painting those pistils gold instead of green :) .

Just to be able to feel happy, joyously happy, amid illness and suffering, is a tremendous blessing in itself. For I had known despair on a daily basis for years.

But I have a confession to make: when really good things happen and they continue, fears and doubts lurk in my heart. I have questions like, Is this really happening to me? Will there be disappointments or pain or punishment at the end? Will something bad happen in return? Do I deserve this? Am I not one who has been chastised time and time again? The one who suffers, left behind, not given the chance to go places with family and enjoy?

I am not sharing these lightly, but as in a whisper, like a fearful and doubting child to her mama. Like I am confiding to an elder who may understand (tears). I told my husband this and tears flowed from my eyes.

I know Jesus, through His Word, His works, powerful testimonies, His amazing grace I have received, and His tender mercies that see me through the day. But I also know God who chastises, who may choose not to hear, whose hand maybe heavy upon me through the day everyday. I know the God who elicits so much fear in me I cower (crying).

I have been asking silently, “Could it be that I am like a child traumatized by her abusive daddy?” If a child has been beaten by his daddy everyday for years, then one day, he treats him kindly, giving him gifts – wouldn’t the child be doubtful and fearful?

I do not say, neither do I believe, that God, my heavenly Father, is an abusive Father. He is most certainly not. But I tend to connect my years of sickness and suffering to His — severity? There were countless times when I begged Him to heal me and take away my suffering but received exactly the opposite, as if He had not been listening, just as there had been many times that He did deliver me and showed me His great compassion.

But the years of suffering, of knowing and experiencing an almost indescribable kind of physical beating brought by illnesses that even doctors couldn’t diagnose, could traumatize anyone, even one who is deeply immersed in Christ.

No, I do not have resentments for God left in my heart. There is only love, that’s why I know He has healed my heart and made me whole, even as sickness and suffering continues.

This fear and doubt that come to me when good things happen, when blessings flow, when peace, joy, and happiness are mine to hold – they are from the devil. I need to understand that. I need to learn that truth and re-learn it again … and again. That’s how I ease them out of my life. They are lies, lies to steal away this joy my faithful Father is giving me.

You may want to know the happenings in my life and in my small world lately that have brought me joy and happiness. But first, what’s the difference between the two? Why do I get the feeling that Christians must have joy and not happiness? And so, they must use “joy” in their writings more than “happy”. In my own understanding, joy is like a bubbling brook deep, deep inside our heart and soul. Unstoppable. Interminable. Indestructible. And so, joy, true joy, can only come from the Lord Jesus Christ. Joy stays. Joy can live through suffering. Joy may not die, but only in the Lord.

And happiness? Happiness feels good, like sharing an ice cream cone with a friend you like best under a shady tree on a hot summer day when the sun is shining brightly and there are no chores to think about. I like happy. I can think of a thousand ways happy could be held. But happy doesn’t stay long. It dies. It ends. It leaves. It flies away. The ice cream melts. The sun goes down. Chores call. The friend leaves. Still, you remember the happy moment and it brings warmth into your heart and smile on your lips.

It’s like this —

Joy is the eternal flame while happiness is the sparks that fly and then disappear.

But however you look at it, joy and happiness are gifts of God. They are blessings from a good, good Father.

The blessing of the Lord makes one rich, And He adds no sorrow with it. (Prov. 10:22)

Joy and happiness for me is to be able to enjoy my everyday and not giving illness and suffering the upper hand. Sickness and suffering are bullies and suckers, but the Lord – He brings joy and happiness. Praise Him!

There is this small Italian dining table and chairs that I saw on a local IG seller’s post that was for sale and immediately, I was drawn to it. I could see myself using it and really enjoy eating at it.

We have a long formal dining table and Queen Anne chairs but we don’t use them everyday. In fact, we only use them during Christmas and sometimes, birthdays, but only for the few family guests that come. Never me. I never ate at that dining table but once during the past 14 years. It felt uninviting and uncomfortable for me and my wheelchair. And so, I never got near it.

When we have special occasions, I eat on the sofa in the living room or in the bedroom. We have a mobile table stationed in our bedroom and that is where our family eats everyday. It’s just a 40″ x 25″ rectangular table but it has seen many days and years of our lives.

To make the story short, we bought the Italian dining table and its three chairs. Yes, there were only three. The seller said she got it from an auction and she had no idea what happened to the fourth chair. While I was staring at the photo, it dawned on me that there were only three chairs because the fourth one is my wheelchair. It’s quite far-fetched but it added to my kinship with it.

On Father’s Day, we ate there and I marvelled at God’s blessing. Hallelujah!

This is that oval dining table with only three chairs. It's quite small but really cute, don't you think so?

This is that oval dining table with only three chairs. It’s quite small but really cute, don’t you think so?

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The In-between Place

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

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

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

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

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

Faith

Hope

Trust

Patience

Courage

Perseverance

Steadfastness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Learning to Live the Life We’ve Been Given

I believe that following the Lord Jesus Christ almost always involves a major detour in life. We hear the Holy Spirit speaking to our hearts, through the Word, in our prayers, and in worship. And until we surrender to His will, there is a strain that is hard to bear.

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Years ago, although I was still waiting for healing, I didn’t want to completely give up my work in the company that I had established. I was looking forward to the day that I would fully recover and go back to the work I so loved doing. But I could feel the strain my resistance was causing. I wasn’t winning in that regard. Eventually, I relinquished all control of my life and future to God and vowed not to return to my work even when He has healed me. The Lord gave all leadership and management of our cosmetic ingredients company to my mechanical engineer husband. Even he experienced a “culture shock” with the change of his occupation: from engineering and maintenance management of a large food manufacturing company to the Cosmetics Industry. But he willingly and gladly obeyed God’s call. This was the detour of our life.

Since then, we have been learning to live this life the Lord has given us. But more so for me.

In previous posts, I wrote about being healed of all negative, unprofitable emotions (mostly and subconsciously directed towards God) I now call the “horrible bundle”. But it turned out that there are still remnants of them in my heart, this time, the ones that are directed towards others.

I needed to go to the IG page of a “celebrity mom” to get her source of seedlings for our kitchen garden. Back when I still visited her IG regularly, she usually posted photos of them planting and harvesting from their backyard garden. I was hesitant to go back and have a look again since the main reason I stopped visiting was that, my feelings of envy were the more kindled every time I see their photos depicting the full, perfect life.

But I wanted to get their source of seedlings and other gardening materials, so off I went. And again, I couldn’t help but marvel at the wonderful life this family is living: both the parents have exciting, fulfilling careers that bring them to beautiful places from time to time; they run marathons (hence, perfect health and fit bodies); they eat homegrown vegetables; they grow their own vegetables and some fruits; they laugh. They live and flourish. And yes, they are a Christian family.

I marvel each time at how different our lives are.

So, I got my source of seedlings but I also went away pondering deeply. Again. I was careful not to slide back to the “horrible bundle”, but the things I saw made me pause and think: Shall I question God again? No, I don’t even want to go there.

In addition to this, I remembered what Felix told me: a wealthy family from church is going to the spiritual, revival crusade in San Jose, California – everyone down to the grandchildren. We would have loved to go also, but we can’t because I am sick. Has been for the last more than 13 years.

I spent the rest of the day seeking wisdom. If only I were wise enough (a sage perhaps) to live the life I have, maybe I wouldn’t feel like this – was somewhat the theme of my thoughts and feelings through the afternoon. How do you live a life that has an important aspect of it which you hate but can’t do anything about?

How do you live it without trying to compare and not feel envious, dissatisfied, dismayed, discontented? Those latter emotions are brought about by the practice of comparing. Why do I compare? Why can’t I help it? Maybe because I grew up competitive. If you love competition (not athletics for me), comparison is its companion and envy is their begotten child. I hate the whole bunch of them. But I found out that afternoon that I am still their prisoner.

In the evening, I found myself writing feverishly on my prayer journal begging God to liberate me from them. To say that I need His help is an understatement. If I feel vulnerable every time and my peace and contentment are easily shaken and so fragile that they easily dissolve with the things I see, then there is a need for me to learn to live this life God has given me. To learn to live it gladly, contentedly, gratefully, without feeling envious or jealous of others. It would be the biggest challenge in my faith life yet. I desperately want to do that, for to live otherwise is not really living at all. A life that is steeped in envious feelings is a life of misery.

The days that followed saw me studying life and faith and the kingdom of God and how they must be lived in a way that they would bring purpose, meaning, and fulfilment in spite of illness and suffering. This is what I was able to grasp:

This is the life we’re given now. We may dream and hope and pray for a better, brighter future, but our present lives must be lived here, now. And when it is lived, it must not be lived half-heartedly, but with everything we’ve got. We cannot postpone life. We cannot postpone joy to sometime in the future when healing (or answer to fervent prayer) and joy could be had.

For me, that still means deep longings along the journey. Longings to travel with family – to see the beach, to enjoy outdoors life together without sickness. Longings. They are often painful, but I believe that to try to expunge them would be impossible in the first place, so why even try? I am trading the “horrible bundle” with envy, comparison, and competition thrown in, but I am keeping the longings. The longings are what makes me human, alive, with a beating heart. Longings are what brings me to my knees and makes me utter prayers only the Spirit understands.

So, to tackle the gritty part: How do I learn to not compare? Honestly, I do not know yet. But I’ll keep on praying.

After Joni Eareckson Tada had her diving accident which left her a quad, she wrote that to compare her life to others would be an emotional suicide. Perfectly said. So, she learned not to look and compare but to fully depend on Jesus. Easier said than done. I know even for her who has grown to be wise, Christ-wise.

But this is what I will do: To make other people’s beautiful lives inspire and encourage me to do the best I can with what I’ve been given, instead of letting them drive me to envy and self-pity. To remember that a life is most meaningful when lived for God. Faithfully. Everyday.

Let’s then fill our lives and days with things that impact eternity and not the world.

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The Posture of Worship

The posture of worship for the strong is on their knees or standing, hands raised towards heaven while singing with all their hearts and might. There maybe exuberant clapping, dancing, and jumping, depending on the music, or trembling and crying in the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit. I have yet to experience these. Most of the time, I find myself in a prone position while I do my best to focus on breathing well, which is often hard, while the Jesus Finest Generation Choir sings during worship service. It’s been mostly like that these past more than 13 years. I cannot count the times I had marveled at how my difficult circumstances hardly ever changes. I look at the singers on the riser and wonder how different my situation is from them. How vastly different! And it pains me to think why it has always been so for many years now.

"We love Him because He first loved us."

If you have been in my blog orbit these past more than 5 years, you know how I have struggled against the hardships my sickness and suffering brings and all the emotional, mental, and spiritual turmoil I go through. And though I always write about my embattled faith still standing strong through it all, it felt like my relationship with God was fraying around the edges, like it couldn’t be entirely, seamlessly, flawlessly whole while I wrestled with the many important issues in my faith life. There were the struggles against envy, self-pity, bitterness, resentment, discouragement, numbness, hurts and pains, deep longings, sadness, anger, fear, cynicism, coldness, and silent rebellion in the heart. Whew!

There were the starings into empty space with empty mind and numb heart, wishing that the blankness would swallow up all the seemingly endless suffering. And it would suddenly be all over.

But recently, the Lord called me into His rest, His holy presence, not through a powerful, Spirit-filled worship, but through gentle whispers in my heart.

A lot has happened internally since then. And though my sickness and suffering has yet to relent, I realized that I was being transformed deep inside. There had been many “refining processes” before. I call them fiery trials and through them, a lot of changes have happened in me. But through the years with no complete healing in sight, I had continued to wrestle with God, much like Jacob did.

This time, God has revealed to me the posture of worship. It is not always standing and singing.

It is not always an abandoned praise where you give all that is within you. It is all that you are. Even when you’re not singing or praising. It is who you are during the times that you cannot rise to sing and lift up your hands.

The posture of worship even in the most difficult times is humility, deep gratitude, and unquestioning faith. The highest worship we could give God is our faith even when it feels like we’ve been thrown into the fiery furnace lit seven times stronger and that it spins like a dryer. (In a cement manufacturing plant, you will see a giant revolving kiln, its height could take up two floors. This is where limestone and other materials are melted to make cement. You will see the product coming out of the kiln like red, liquid fire. The surrounding area is so hot).

Even so, but to still believe in Him and trust Him. To still draw closer to Him and believe that He is good, gracious, and plenteous in mercy. To never doubt that ever again.

To spurn the thoughts swirling in our minds that He is a severe God, that He doesn’t listen to our most fervent prayers. That maybe He’s not fair? That He loves us less than the others? For “Jacob He has loved, but Esau He has hated” (Rom. 9:13), right?

But we don’t embrace these. We cast them out from us. Because we are those children who love their Father, who want to keep on loving Him. Forever. For only in this we become strong. Only in this we are happy – truly, spiritually happy.

everlasting love

My painting of last year. (Please excuse my terrible brush lettering).

So we love Him, for doesn’t the Bible say that we do because He first did it? “We love Him because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19). And this love didn’t only start 2000 years ago. It is from everlasting. He has loved us with an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3). (I always want to remember this). So, even in our very difficult suffering, in our very hard places, we will love Him (crying).

We will love Him even through the blinding rain of our tears.

We will love Him because we know. We know the Truth, We know His Word. To love Him is to trust Him. No fight left in us. It is just a willing surrender. A trusting surrender. A loving surrender. That is the posture of worship.

No defiance, no bitterness, no resentment, no numbness, no hardheartedness. Just joyfully loving Him. Like a child who adores and clings to her father.

How can that even be possible when you’re battered by sickness and suffering, buffeted by diverse trials? And He, who alone can take us out of them, seems to be not moving a finger? And why ever not? All things are possible with Him, in Him, through Him, and for Him.

Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” (Mark 9:23)

I love that.

So, I need not envy others. In Christ I am complete. That is the simple truth. If I believe otherwise, I have listened to the devil’s lie. The Lord Jesus did not only die to save me, He also resurrected so I, too, will live forevermore.

So, we do not only worship the Healer because we’re desperate for healing. We worship because that’s how we’ve been wired. We are created to worship Him. This is the meaning of worshiping in spirit and in truth. We worship even through trials and tribulations, for we do not worship only because of our circumstances, but in His truth. The truth that remains unchanged forever. We worship in that truth. And in the spirit, where the love sowed by the Holy Spirit is connected to its Creator.

The posture of worship will always be on our knees, literally and figuratively.

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Poor in Spirit

For days I put my heart under scrutiny, an in-depth heart examination as I tried to search for the reason of my sadness. For even though I determined to go back to the first and great commandment and try to forget the more than 13 years that I had not received my healing, and start afresh, I could’t feel the spark. I went through my days going through the motions, the very thing I’d said I wanted to avoid. I couldn’t get myself to fully rejoice in the Lord, although I continued to do the things of God diligently as before – praying, Bible reading and journaling, praising (if I could), writing on my prayer journal, and painting flowers with a verse written in metallic gold paint – all to bring honor to Him. Still, my spirit groped.

YELLOW BLOOMS on my Monologue journal. I love painting on my journal and using metallic gold paint for Bible verse.

YELLOW BLOOMS on my Monologue journal. I love painting on my journal and using metallic gold paint for Bible verse.

I asked myself: What am I harboring in my heart?

Is it a silent rebellion that has its roots in resentful feelings?

Is it a silent, insidious sulk that is hardly remediable except the Lord do something about it?

Is it a combination of weariness and sorrow that cannot be soothed?

Is it bitterness that is hard to scour and dislodge?

Or, a defiant cynicism that is the beginning of my undoing?

I knew that it couldn’t be only all those things without it having any redeemable qualities. I discerned that my soul was longing for something more, besides my healing, something that is beyond my heart’s known desires (some of these desires, when put under the Savior’s penetrating light, are really not necessary in kingdom work). I guess I’m longing to see and live differently, far from the reach of the world’s standards.

I confess I’m weary of the world and the things it does to my heart and mind. It influences me in such a way that my mindset and affections are partly shaped by it. I’m getting weary envying and coveting and being plunged into the abyss of dismay and discouragement. Or numbness. That is, envying and coveting NOT other people’s goods, but other people’s lives – their health and strength, the places they go, things they are able to do and enjoy.

But please don’t get me wrong. I do not wish to see Las Vegas or Hollywood or other plush places most people wish to see. I wouldn’t long so deeply just for those, no. No, no, no. I just want to get well and get out and get away for a while. I want to be healed and be used by the Lord according to His purposes and plans. I want to live and experience the thrill of that kind of life. So alive and meaningful!

But as I wait and be ill still and suffer, I remain vulnerable to these unprofitable emotions which I hate to mention again.

And so, I arrived at a conclusion: I have not gone cold and backsliding, I am just poor in spirit. For years I have been poor in spirit, even as I learned to live and walk in full faith, pray as a child of God should, read the Bible diligently, praise and worship, and write about God’s story. Because of my longtime sickness and suffering that always threatens to steal my life, my future and joy, I have always been at the complete mercy of God – poor, needy, dependent, hungry, thirsty, desperate. And even as I am weak enough as to let the world subject me into a whirl of emotions that doesn’t help or add to my stature, I am the more poor in spirit.

I am the more in need of help. God’s help. In need of wholeness, wholeness that only the Lord Jesus can give.

I saw my true poverty for even as my illnesses oppress me, so I have let the world oppress me also by desiring to have a piece and taste of it, even for that harmless part of it: travels and vacations, dates with the husband, playdates with the kids, and more. Those are not sinful desires, I know. They are just normal desires that a wife and mother cherishes. But I have let their absence in my life and my deep longing for them steal my joy and my zeal for my Lord nonetheless.

The good part is, I have come to know how poor I am and how I need my Savior even more so.

I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. (Rev. 3:18)

Refined gold. Our true wealth is in the Lord Jesus Christ.

White garments. He will clothe us with wholeness.

Anointing. That we may see.

I want to be truly rich, whole, and seeing, so there is a need for a change of heart and mind.

Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord… (part of 2 Cor. 8:17). And so I have made some practical changes that I knew would greatly help. One of those is to not live in and through Facebook. Most of my heartaches have come from that bittersweet place. Sadly, there are things I see there that make the heart heavy, doubt, and even grow cold and can make one stumble in his/her faith walk. But I need it also to share my blogposts or my art to those who want to have a piece of it. So, I only go there now when it’s really necessary.

The good things, really good things, are the ones you rarely see on your FB newsfeed: praying and fasting believers, workers visiting the sick and bringing the Gospel of salvation to places others would not dare to go. Of the saints of God weeping in worship, in poverty, in hardship. People of God who are poor in spirit: dependent on and hungry for God everyday of their lives.

No, you won’t see them on FB, but it would be a great blessing to be serving alongside them.

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Mat. 5:3)

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The Way of Hope

On New Year’s Eve, I sat at my new, shiny marble-topped painting table (a Christmas gift from Felix), staring into my laptop screen. I flitted from Pinterest to Instagram to Photos Library and back again, looking for inspiration, a photo I would paint that would lift off the sadness and weariness I was feeling. I wanted to paint but I felt that both my body and spirit were tired. Minutes ticked by and I couldn’t decide. I planned to do a series of serious painting jobs, elaborate orchids and fruits, at the beginning of 2017, but that night, I just wanted to experience the joy of watercolor. But the moment didn’t come. I felt tired, undecided, uninspired. Like the old year that just passed. I ended up dabbling a parent bear and its cub, tightly snuggled together.

mommy bear and cub

The mommy bear and cub I doodled on NYE. Maybe my soul was wanting to be cherished by my Father in heaven and let Him soothe away all my aches, sickness, and suffering.

That morning, I wrote on my prayer journal feverishly. I remembered the year that was, all the times that I was left behind when Felix and the kids went away: out-of-town excursions last summer, and recently, the Christmas party of our company, Actichem, which culminated in a buffet lunch at Vikings. There were many others in-between – them going out, me staying behind. Like the other years before. In those times, I had felt desolate. But they, too, passed.

While I was writing on my prayer journal, I felt sad, bitter, resentful, and angry all at the same time. There was a lump in my throat as I thought about my life. I covered about two whole pages and although I wrote so many things (mainly about my soul’s bitter complaints), what I can remember clearly now is writing “alone, alone, alone!” Can you feel the angst? (Please forgive me for writing thus, but it will get better. Promise).

HOPE. I was inspired to paint this photo I found on IG, the tiny purple flowers shooting out of the crack of the stone wall, like hope shining over our lives even when darkness threatens.

HOPE. I was inspired to paint this photo I found on IG, the tiny purple flowers shooting out of the crack of the stone wall, like hope shining over our lives even when darkness threatens.

So I sat at my painting table, feeling the weight of my achy, inflamed back and my sorrowing spirit. I saw myself sitting on a rock in the middle of a circle where roads went in all directions with the labels: “patient waiting”, “perseverance”, “persistence”, “do not grow faint in prayer”, “quiet strength”, “steadfastness”, and many other blurry signs, but none that I would like to take at that moment. I just wanted to sit and do nothing.

But I remember begging God to “help me and tell me what to do because I don’t know what to do and where to go from here”. I had tried everything. I had walked each road in that multiple crossroads. Still, I am too sick and weak to walk and travel. And there are still times in the day that I wrestle for good breathing.

 A few hours before New Year, I stared at a framed artwork on the wall with a Bible verse:

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jer. 29:11)

Hope. I still don’t leap in joy, both physically and spiritually. But hope carries me through the days. It carried me through the last hours of the old year to welcome the new year… still faithful to the Lord. When 12:00AM struck and fireworks boomed out of everywhere and lit up the sky without letup – purples, reds, oranges, greens, blues, gold, and silver sparks and lights – I felt the powerful presence of God. I raised my hands toward heaven and praised and worshiped Him with hallelujahs. Nothing can equal His power no matter how much noise we create. It is still His world and I am just a tiny speck in it. A speck He calls by name.

So, I let hope carry me through my quotidian life, especially through the wearying days. The Bible says that hope doesn’t disappoint, although I feel terribly disappointed at times. Still, hope is there in the background of my life, as the mountains surround Jerusalem. It hovers over my head, a sturdy assurance as the heavens above. It is settled and deeply rooted in the soil of my heart forever.

Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Rom. 5:5)

It is hope that feeds peace and joy. Hope that exhales out fears, doubts, and uncertainties, and inhales in invigorating air to sustain and continue life.

I saw myself standing up from that rock where I sat not knowing what to do or think or pray for, and chose the way of hope. I have no huge plans for now. Still waiting for divine inspiration perhaps. Not even words to encourage you, or an overflow of joy to infect you, or a shining light to brighten up your day. But you and I – we have hope. For the coming days and weeks and months.

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast… (Portion of Heb. 6:19).

This is what we’re going to do (see Rom 12: 12):

 Rejoice in hope (though sometimes we don’t feel like rejoicing).

Be patient in tribulation (though sometimes we think we have completely run out of stock; God will replenish our supply).

Continue steadfastly in prayer (though sometimes we can’t seem to find the words to move His hand).

 The Word of God has an answer to our every need. An encouragement. A hope.

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On Trudging, Patience, and Gratitude

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Redeeming the Time

In Ephesians 5:15-17, the apostle Paul tells us to redeem the time:

See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 

My watercolor painting of Fall Foliage (reference photo from Instagram). I hope you like it.

My watercolor painting of Fall Foliage (reference photo from Instagram). I hope you like it.

We were given the reason why we must redeem the time – the days are evil – and how we go about it: walk circumspectly and wisely and understanding the will of God. When we think of “redeeming the time”, we usually think of the bigger picture: our service to God. Well, for me anyway. That is, until something happened at home that brought me to this.

What exactly is “redeem”? I like what Google gave when I searched for its definition.

redeem: compensate for the faults or bad aspects of (something); do something that compensates for poor past performance or behavior.

As I’ve mentioned above, up to this time, I saw “redeeming the time” as more of the task of a Christ laborer, especially those who preach the Gospel and win souls everywhere. To not waste time in spreading the Gospel of salvation as it is the only way to fight these evil days, pushing back the darkness and its works. But when we see it only this way, we tend to think that we, as housewives and stay-at-home moms or full-time career or business people, are not really called to this.

But I received an epiphany today that practicing “redeeming the time” in our marriages, families, and homes is a beautiful moment-by-moment, day-to-day undertaking. It is living a life that is full of grace.

I, with my ailing self, derive strength from the love, peace, and joy that our home and family bring, but most of all, of course, from my faith in God. Each day, however hard it is for me physically, I am renewed, strengthened, and inspired to pursue and live life to the Christ-fullest. That desire alone keeps me awake at night pondering and keeps me on my toes throughout the day. I have that deep desire to truly live out the Lord Jesus’ words and not only a lip service or going through the motions. It is my way of loving Him wholly and honoring Him in my life. A continuous, daily worship.

At the bottom of all this is my belief that being pleasing and right with God is what gives me life and continuance.

…the joy of the Lord is [my] strength. ( Part of Neh. 8:10)

But my heart’s desires and my attempts at living them are affected by my circumstances and the people I do life with. Mistakes, blunders, failures are bound to happen. The aim to walk the higher ground and foster a better relationship with someone for instance, could shatter in a moment’s weakness. Disagreements arise, even a word war or silent war or cold war! In a moment’s time, we could say the wrong word, words that stir up anger or hurt. But this is the good part: we need not stay there! After the words are spoken, the tears are shed, or maybe the door has been shut, or the back has been turned – it is not really the end. It must not be the end.

That is the beauty of grace. We can partake of it as often and as much as we want to. That is the inconsumable grace of Lamentations 3: 22-23:

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
23 They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.

We are given new mercies every morning. Every morning we are renewed, reinstated, and reaffirmed. And if our gracious and merciful Father does it to us every morning, can’t we do the same to each other? Can’t we renew, reinstate, and reaffirm one another in each other’s love, joy, and peace?

Can’t we redeem what we have foolishly squandered?

Are we better at squandering or redeeming?

Do we squander the new day and the new mercies given to us because we are hard-hearted like that? Do we squander them by giving in to our unprofitable emotions: anger, resentment, bitterness, coldness?

No. We redeem each and every moment and every day with new mercies as the Lord supplies us! We redeem the ugliness, the mistakes, the failures with fresh grace.

… Freely [we] have received, freely give. (Part of Mat. 10:8)

We redeem the squandered moments with fresh dose of forgiveness and love and we gather again peace and joy unto our bosom and rejoice together in the Lord. A life of grace is where we thrive, like fish to water, plants to rich soil.

To redeem is to gather again and not to scatter.

Because we walk after the Holy Spirit and live by its fruit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control – tarrying in that place outside of its borders will not be good for us and our health. It’s like fish out of water.

I have a fragile health and I can’t afford to squander my days. I don’t have the luxury of endless days. On earth, at least. That is true for all of us. A stanza of the song You Are My World is a great reminder:

And all my days are gifts from You
I pray I’d use them as You want me to
Use them for You.

Our beloved pastor advises to live each day as if it were the day the Lord Jesus comes. Watching. Praying. Loving. Giving grace and mercy. Rejoicing. Living in peace and joy. Wasting nothing.

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Journey with Jesus,

Spiritual Hunger

Lately when I presented myself before the Lord in worship and sang my one song (or two) before breathing became short, my soul had asked painfully. As I tried to touch heaven and my Savior King’s heart, this was what went on in the depths of my soul:

Here I sit in this room, singing praises to You, desiring to worship You with all of me and yet, it seems that what I do is not enough.

What really connects me to heaven? To You? To eternity? Is it the song? My voice? My raised hands? My posture? My words and declarations like, “Thank You, Lord! I love You so much, my dearest Jesus!” and such like?

What makes me Yours, completely and eternally? Are they the things that I do (or not do)?

I think not.

It should be my heart. I want to know and experience again to be completely owned by You. So, take my heart. Take all of it. I give it all to You. Please own me completely. Again.

My loose painting of roses on my Monologue visual journal. I hope you like it :) .

My loose painting of roses on my Monologue visual journal. I hope you like it :) .

Still, I felt that wasn’t enough. Words of love like that seem hollow when there is something missing. Something I cannot put my finger on sometimes. It seemed that I couldn’t see that cord that connected me to my Lord, like the cord that connected a child to its mother. Suddenly, I realized that it is not the things, the activities that we do, that make us one with the Eternal King, the Savior that will bring us to His everlasting kingdom.

What makes us citizens of heaven, to be seated together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus? And to experience that everyday of our life and not feel estranged or orphaned? For me, the altar call, the salvation prayer, and the baptism in water in Jesus’ name are like lightyears ago.

By God’s grace, I never turned my back on Him ever since. But the seasons of life change and the face of our faith change with it. Just like winter, spring, summer, and fall, our lives and faith journeys shift from fallow to fruitful, sunny to stormy, rich to wanting.

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. (Ecc. 3:1)

Looking back at the 13 years of being ill and walking with the Lord Jesus, I can see the seasons changing in connection with my faith and relationship with Him. There had been seasons of fear and uncertainty. Seasons of partial healing and seasons of sickness and suffering again. Seasons of doubts, discouragement, and even resentment and wanting to rebel.

And then there was the season of great hunger for the Lord Jesus, my Savior and Healer, that I will not forget.

Looking back now, that season of hunger was also the season of being nearest to Him. He was a constant in my thoughts, in my song in the night, and in my Bible readings. He was in all of my moments.

Everything I did was to reach out to Him, to touch even the hem of His garment. For Him to see my tears. To see me and touch me and make everything okay. In that season, He was all I ever wanted. My burning desire.

One time when Hannah read to me a passage from the gospels, I cried. Hannah asked why and I said that I cried because I wanted the Lord Jesus so much. Looking back, even in that season of hunger (and more so), everything in my life seemed pure, fine, and right with God. Hunger for Him is purifying. A sanctifying experience.

And that’s where I found my answer to my soul’s questions of recent days.

Our hunger for God is what connects us to Him, surely and completely. We come before Him because our hearts are so very hungry and we know that it’s only Him who could fill that hunger. It is our hunger that He fills up. And when He does, we feel Him and all of eternity with Him. And we are that child again connected to its mother like an umbilical cord.

Without that cord, the child will die. Without His filling up our hunger, we will die. A slow spiritual death.

But if we are not hungry for Him, how could He fill us up? If our vessels are full of this world’s goods, where would His place be? First the child must experience pangs of hunger, his tummy is hollow, so he cries. He cries wantonly and will not stop until his mother nurses him and his hunger is fully satisfied.

This is what connects us to our Father in heaven: our hunger for Him. When we are hungering for Him, we will turn to Him, run to Him, hound Him, cry out to Him and reach out for Him until we can touch even the hem of His garment. We will pour out our hearts to Him like a drink offering. Unrelentingly until He comes and satiates our hunger and we will be refreshed and revived.

Deep spiritual hunger is beyond lifestyle. Above and beyond anything this world could offer. Above our gifts, the things we love to do, what inspires us. It is even beyond the beautiful praise music. Hunger for God is free of any earthly thing that cannot really, eternally satisfy. It is a hollow in our soul only He could fill.

But even this hunger for God must be prayed for and sought after.

Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. (Ps. 37:4)

We want Him to grant the desires (our prayers) of our hearts. But we must also ask that He put those holy desires in us. That we must desire Him more than the things of this world. Yes, even more than His gifts and blessings and the things we do that delight our hearts and souls and make us burst in overflowing inspiration and joy.

God fills us up by the outpouring of His Holy Spirit. We may think that we are full when our earthly desires are met, but it is only in being full of the Holy Spirit (the manifest presence of God) that we are truly full.

“…whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:14)

When we worship, it is the moving of the Holy Spirit that assures us we are citizens of heaven and we have not lost our seat beside Christ. It is our seal, our branding, of belonging to Him, now and for all eternity. And as we do our best to reach out to heaven and touch it during worship, God will put that craving in our soul once again, craving for His love and presence and all of Him.

And that’s what I received and experienced again: the wanting of the Lord Jesus Christ so much it hurts. That experience is in and of itself pure joy and satisfaction.

(Erratum: In my previous post, it should be “steering wheel” and not “stirring wheel” 😀 . Sorry for the error).

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Journey with Jesus,