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,

Rushing Through Life

I found out that even at painting, we rush, too. Or maybe I’m the only one. I think that’s one of my weaknesses in watercolor painting – I so want to see the end product that at some point, I hasten it up, committing mistakes in the process.

rushingthrough

I was very eager to start the third piece in my Magnolia Project because it involved one of many lovely Bible verses that I treasure. It started out good and promising. The white magnolia petals and its pink stamen were pretty in their simplicity. Even the background color I used came out surprisingly comforting, too – a combination of very light cerulean blue and olive green. I used a thick mop brush to spread the wash and when it dried, it created tinges of blue and green and I thought it was lovely. But I wanted to see the final product, so I rushed through the hand lettering which is not my strong point. To make the story short, I ruined the painting because I didn’t take time in writing the verse. Although I used Finetec metallic gold, that didn’t do the trick.

I lamented my white magnolia flower and its buds. I regretted rushing through the project and not taking my time to produce a carefully-painted artwork.

Before I became a born-again Christian, I used to measure time by productivity. As I looked back at the year that was, I measured its quality and magnitude by how much I had accomplished in my business – sales, new products, new projects, new developments, new territories. How many trips and seminars abroad I went to, and if I had invested in a prime property or upgraded my vehicle. The goal was always to move forward and move up. Always adding knowledge and experience into my profession. I was contented if my year had been full and frenetic.

I used to qualify the years by how the dreams were lived.

Life was always a rat race. For me, it wasn’t as much about competing as it was about aiming higher, setting more ambitious goals and achieving just as much. If you’re an overly ambitious businessman or woman, every hour must count toward the fulfilment of every goal.

I put up my own chemicals company at 30. And from Day 1, I didn’t stop running the lane of fulfilling dreams and ambitions and unstoppable success.

Then illness came and time stood still.

When you’re staring down illness and the threat of death, your perspective shifts dramatically. You’re apt to forget about all else and just want to survive. Realizations, naked and clear, suddenly play a powerful role.

Early on in my illness, I knew without a doubt that it was “a call” from above. I trembled in fear just by the realization of it. In panic, I set out to make peace with God and to align my whole being with His will. And fast, tearing down all obstacles. I thought I couldn’t afford a moment’s delay. I understood clearly then that man’s salvation is an emergency. There might not be another chance…

And so I received my salvation a day after my 36th birthday. The peace that flooded my being was one I had never experienced in my entire life. I felt that finally, I was placed on a firm and hallowed ground and that there was absolutely no other place on earth I’d rather be. My whole view of life and the world changed overnight: I was no longer the overly ambitious, over-achieving businesswoman. I was now a person who had received abounding grace and mercy and who was desperately waiting for healing. My worldly life had ended and a new one had begun. I was born again in an entirely different realm, raised up together, and made [to] sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (see Eph. 2:6).

I knew it then when a rich friend from the gym I used to frequent called to invite me to an affair in a plush hotel. She excitedly told me of her plans to get us fabulous hair and makeup appointments in the salon and wear our gorgeous best. She didn’t know I was very ill and unable to move normally. (I withdrew from the world so suddenly and quietly it would seem like I had vanished into thin air).

When the call ended, I slowly hobbled to the bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror. My days of worldly pursuits had ended and there was no turning back.

But in my sickbed, I begged the Lord to hasten to heal me so I could go back to work. My company was limping with only my staff running it. But more than that, I desperately wanted to go back to the work I so loved. Although I had just become a true child of God, I was unaware that I was still identifying and defining myself by my work and not by my daughtership.

Weeks turned into months wherein I desired to get well and recover to be able to go back to work. Eventually, Felix had to takeover the management of the company. Still, healing didn’t come.

I was rushing through God’s refining process. Although still very sick, my vision and desires rested on the career I had unwillingly left behind. I couldn’t settle in to God’s own plan for me. I thought my plan was also His.

The waiting time, which I had hoped would only take weeks, took years. And finally in 2007, more than three years after that last day that I worked in the office, I totally surrendered to God and His will. A revelation happened on that afternoon in our bedroom and I vowed never to go back to work again. I was God’s and He could do with me whatever He wished. Then the rushing through life stopped.

I slowly settled in to the new normal. I stopped counting months and years before I could go back to work for there was no more work waiting for me. God had chosen Felix to lead our company. I settled in to His pace and learned to seek His will and purpose for me. I hadn’t a clue what it was, but I believed that I had all the time in the world to figure it out, as long as I remained fastened to His side.

I look back at the years that had passed, still in the long waiting season, and I can no longer valuate them as I used to. No worldly achievements, accomplishments, or acquisitions to count. There is only walking with Jesus, ever abiding and continuously learning and growing in Him. Unlike before when I looked back at my prosperous years, they were neatly aligned like shining trophies prominently displayed where everyone could see. Now, it seems to me that my years are jumbled and remembered only by seasons of illness and suffering interwoven with enduring tender mercies, healing moments, good and perfect gifts, Jesus’ unfailing love and faithfulness and His constant presence.

I’m learning to embrace these years and to count them as not wasted but ones that have an impact on eternity.

The world measures the years by success and growth and profits and the things that can be seen and touched and flaunted. Heaven measures them entirely differently.

(Photo: My watercolor painting of sky, hills, and meadows. I invite you to visit my art gallery on Facebook :) ).

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Journey with Jesus,

Options (Testimony)

I wish there were a gentler way to write about this, but there isn’t. I had lived this kind of lifestyle, and now that I am walking with the Lord Jesus, I learned that there’s no use sugar-coating this painful reality: I had come to realize that a woman of the world who has so many opportunities and options in her hands has a high risk of following the wide road where immorality is condoned and even defended. Options coupled with the human being’s propensity to be selfish is a very potent combination that drives one into choosing and pursuing a worldly, pleasurable life that feeds one’s lusts, vanity, and pride. Or tries to alleviate one’s loneliness and emptiness. Or meaninglessness.

options

Like me before, there are accomplished career and business women today who live lives that are to be envied, when seen on the outside. They have flourishing careers and businesses; they have their own comfortable living spaces; they travel; they shop; they pamper and beautify themselves with the latest cosmetic trends. They are very independent and self-sufficient. They read self-help books instead of God’s Word. Some go to church because they believe it’s a duty (and it’s good to look at). They know how blessed they are and the least they could do is go to church at least every Sunday. If at all. They want to maintain this religiousness. It is a neat thing to complete the full life.

These are women who profess they know God but are not surrendered to Him. God is just a part of their lifestyle, One who is relegated to the background but never truly worshiped. What they really worship is the world and the things of this world (most unfortunately, they don’t even know that or wouldn’t admit it). They are in love with the world and not of the Savior of the world.

These are intelligent, smart women who know what they want and how to get it. Money and options which are available to them in abundance and their own self-centeredness will bring them their hearts’ desires. Conscience is stuffed and locked up somewhere inside where it can’t meddle with their plans. (Even their prayers are prayers to prosper their selfish motives. I still see myself kneeling inside the Catholic Church’s perpetual adoration chapel praying fervently for God to bless my sinful plans).

Again, I wish there were a milder way to write about these things, but sin is sin. I know. I had lived that life and knew other women who did the same. The Bible says that “she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives” (1 Tim. 5:6).

Means and the ways of the world offer a woman options to get the life she wants even if it tramples God’s commands. Welcome to the wide road!

“…for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.” (Mat. 7:13)

It is both an apprenticeship to the world (not knowing any other way of life) and ignorance of the work of sin in one’s life. The Lord Jesus’ words echo from the cross, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

It is really that. They know not what they do. The world and the endless options it offers have blinded their hearts and minds. Snippets of Romans 1 squeeze themselves into mind:

They don’t glorify God.

are unthankful

vain in their imaginations

Foolish hearts are darkened.

Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.

reprobate

But for most, they are simply lost. Lost sheep which the Savior is still searching for.

Divorce and Annulment 

Long time ago in small towns in the provinces, life was quiet. Everyday, the mothers cooked and washed clothes and tended their families; the grandmothers taught their daughters how to be good, faithful wives, their granddaughters how to behave in public and guard their purity. Long time ago where I grew up, marriage was sacred and faithfully kept and families were loved and nurtured. Faithfulness, purity, and humility were just a few of the virtues that were steadfastly pursued and kept. Life was simple. People loved faithfully, even sacrificially. They were content. They had a fear of God.

Then life became richer, in terms of financial and material wealth, careers and businesses. A wealth of opportunities were opened, especially to women. They are no longer relegated only to tend the home, but they are now leading their own companies and calling the shots. Which is not bad at all, except that, with the success came independence and the freedom to choose what makes one happy and fulfilled, even to losing one’s soul.

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? (Mark 8:36)

There is nothing wrong in wanting to be happy. But when we seek it the wrong way, that’s where the problems begin. Selfishness and a conscience hardened by the world’s teachings can make wrong seem right.

So, a worldly successful woman can choose to opt out of her sacred vows. She believes she is entitled to it.

He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. (Mat. 19:8, emphasis mine)

I had walked that cold corridor going to the offices of a reputable law firm. I wanted annulment. I wanted to pursue my own peace and happiness. Never mind if my baby needed a daddy. It wasn’t working. I had the money. I would recreate my life. The sound of my heels clicking against the tiled floor echoed in the empty corridor. It was hollow. Just like my soul.

But the Lord Jesus Christ got me even before I got to hire the lawyers’ services. He saved me. It wasn’t anything that I had done. It was pure grace. A mountain of divine mercy.

…But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound. (Rom. 5:20)

New Laws, Technology, and Inventions

Laws that give rights to do what is naturally wrong are created more and more. Their reach becomes wider and broader and gaining power. Today, men can change their gender physically and permanently and marry their own kind. Sodom and Gomorrah have risen up from the ashes. But if God completely destroyed it then because of utter sinfulness, wouldn’t it be the same now? Have the heart and character of the holy God of the Old Testament changed? Not a chance!

…I am the Lord, I change not… (Mal. 3:6)

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Heb. 13:8)

Thirteen years ago, I paid P60,000 for a liposuction procedure of my tummy. I was not at all fat. In fact, I was very slim as I spent hours in the gym everyday. But my tummy wasn’t as flat as I wanted it. I wanted to have a perfect body. I had the money. I had an option. I took it. Barely two months later, I fell ill.

If you would ask me, now that I’m a born-again Christian, what I think of liposuction, I would say it’s vanity, and it’s therefore sin. I would never recommend it.

Maybe we could buy happiness. We may enjoy it for a fleeting moment. But happiness will always be temporary (for it depends on our circumstances), but the joy that comes from the Lord lasts forever.

The narrow road doesn’t offer options so we could follow our own selfish desires. But rather, following Jesus requires us to deny ourselves and take up our own crosses (see Mat. 16:24). It’s a straight highway to heaven. It is a life fully surrendered to God and His will. But it is the only way to life.

Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. (Mat. 7:14)

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Journey with Jesus,

The Beauty of Obedience

I am in awe of the faithfulness of the Lord through His Spirit that He has given us. He speaks to us through His abiding Spirit, even of the minutest detail of our lives. That is, if we are constantly attuned to His Spirit’s whisperings. If we foster an unbroken fellowship with Him and are continually connected with Him through worship, prayers, His Word, and a keen awareness of His hovering presence, we will see the radiance of His light ever guiding us. And it is beautiful. His whisperings of reminders and teachings to obey Him in all aspects of life will be a source of joy. And our obedience itself will not be a burden but a delight to us. But most of all, to Him.

obedience

Obedience in the Little Things

These are the things that happen in our hearts and minds and are almost indiscernible to other people. These are little decisions that we make deep inside us even before they are manifested outwardly. And although we may think them as simple and small, they mean a lot to our Savior. That’s why the Holy Spirit whispers to our hearts about them. These are decisions we make moment by moment, like:

Not criticizing and judging others in our hearts.

Not comparing ourselves with others and harboring a teeny weeny bit of pride.

Telling the truth as it is without exaggeration or flattery.

Keeping quiet when our silence is needed.

Not talking too much  for In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise (Prov. 10:19).

Being careful in choosing our words that they may minister to the hearers.

Choosing to encourage rather than crush a person’s spirit.

Choosing to be gentle, patient, and kind when provoked.

Not gossiping or talking about other people in a negative way (or if we don’t feel a genuine concern for the other person’s improvement or development).

Being grateful instead of complaining and grumbling.

The list above proves that God is concerned even in our most private thoughts and emotions, what compels us to think, speak, and act as we do. His sole purpose is our total sanctification. Therefore, we cannot ignore the voice of the Spirit that speaks within us.

But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Pet. 1:15-16)

If we walk in the Spirit, being aware of His constant nearness, day by day, moment by moment, our hearts and minds will be attuned to His still, small voice, ever whispering, ever guiding. We obey with gladness and our spirits are buoyed up. Maintaining the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God (1 Pet. 3:4) then becomes a joy and inspiration to us, a gentle peace settling in our souls, as if God’s river of life courses through our very being.

Obedience in the Big Things

This often requires our commitment and sacrifice. Sometimes they could bring pain. But being determined to be victorious in Christ compels us to obey and trust that God will recompense us for it. These things may be:

Not to worry or be anxious but to trust God completely.

Commit our hearts, minds, souls, time, and energy to worship God. To give of ourselves to Him unreservedly.

For us parents to commit our lives in bringing up [our] children in the training and admonition of the Lord (see Eph. 6:4), being consistent to lead and set a good example for them to follow. To not become lax and complacent in our God-given role.

Still, a few other things under this could be:

Obedience in Prayer

There is an enduring beauty in giving of ourselves to true prayer, not the rushed, half-hearted, half-minded kind. Prayer is talking to the King of kings and Lord of lords, the God Almighty. It should involve the highest and complete reverence, awe, and humility. Praying is talking and asking God in full faith, believing without a doubt that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (see Heb. 11:6). If we pray with this knowledge in mind, we will not be blabbering away with vain words that we ourselves think are ineffective.

We will be praying in faith, every word we utter has its own weight, believing that whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight (1 John 3:22).

Growing faint in prayer may happen every now and then. But the Lord has commanded us that [we] ought always to pray, and not to faint (Luke 18:1) and even supported it with a parable to bring this home, leaving us no reason to dwell in that discouraged situation.

In fact, He encourages us to be consistent and to persevere in prayer, even in the face of difficult circumstances that conspire against us. It is a command we need to obey and in our obedience with faith at the forefront, it just cannot be that nothing good will come out of it.

Obedience in Forgiving

For Christians, we cannot afford to harbor unforgiveness for long. We do not want to provoke God’s displeasure towards us and so, we obey His command to forgive others so our heavenly Father will also forgive us. We pray to be able to forgive not only in words, but from the heart. That is hard, that’s why we need to pray for it until it happens. But it doesn’t end there. He also teaches to love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Mat. 5:44).

Love our enemies! Yes, those who have deeply wronged and hurt us. Forgiving them from the heart is one thing, loving them is entirely another! But it is a command we need to obey. How can we love them then, especially when they are not at all repentant? I have written about my own painful and difficult experience of forgiving and loving despite of. You can read it here.

It is more excellent to just humbly obey and surrender everything to Him: our pride, resentments, and hurts. We give it all to Him for He said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay” (see Heb. 10:30). Our obedience will bring Him pleasure. He will right the wrong.

Obedience in What Delights God

Sunday is the saddest day of the week for me. Sounds ironic, considering that it is a day to worship the Lord. But because I cannot travel to church, only my family goes and I am always left behind. These six years. There were seasons when I was very sick, yet they had to leave for church because “Seek ye first the kingdom of God…” and all those teachings we honor. And our children sing in the choir.

Since December last year, my son Tim has gone up to the Children’s Choir (from Cherubims Choir). He’s happy there. He loves the new songs he’s learning. On February 14, our Church celebrated its 41st anniversary. It was a huge and very special celebration and worship service. Such occasions usually last until around midnight (starting at before noon). Tim’s supposed to stay at home with me, and in fact, he expressed his fears in going and singing in the expanded Children’s Choir (other outreaches joining, filling up the risers up and down, center, left, and right).

“Mom, what if I get lost in the crowd?” He asked me. He also went to his Dad with the same concern. Our main church holds its worship service in a stadium. I, in particular, didn’t want to accept defeat, although it would have been more peaceful in my heart and mind that he stayed home. But we wanted to be victorious in the Lord. So, we came up with a plan that Tim would not be “lost in the crowd” as he (and I also) had feared.

For the first time, Tim sang in the Children’s Choir on our Church’s anniversary and we were all glad for our family’s victory.

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Journey with Jesus,

God’s Beautiful Presence

I should have been thrilled when school ended and the kids would be on vacation for more than 4 months. Four months! Because Reedley International School will be following the USA’s start of school year beginning July. But I wasn’t that excited at all. Sure, I was very thankful for a fruitful school year, the kids both receiving honors in academic excellence, and the four-month break would be really great. If I could travel.

God's beautiful presence

Weeks before summer would officially start, I prayed for healing and strength, enough to enable me to travel to our Church’s crusades. ‘Tis the season for spiritual crusades for our Church all over the country and what better way to spend the summer than to go to them all if possible. I zeroed in on this kingdom work, thinking that the Lord would grant it according to 1 John 5:14-15:

And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:

And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.

I imagined our family traveling to Baguio City for the first leg of our crusade season. We would be staying at The Manor in Camp John Hay. (Thinking about it seems like wishing to holiday in Europe instead of just Baguio City, a 5-hour drive from home. It is that high for me to attain). After the crusade, we would spend a day and a night in San Juan, La Union (I’ve been dreaming of the white sands of San Juan Beach). I kept my dreams as simple and lean as that. I thought that anything beyond it would keep the dreams just dreams instead of turn into reality. But I knew (I could feel it in every fiber of my being even right here on my bed) that when my bare feet had touched the sands as fine as sugar crystals and the salty breeze had caressed my face, I would lift up my hands toward heaven and worship God in abandon.

Holy Week had come and gone. I have not traveled a single mile.

Before the Holy Week, I resolved to not go to Facebook. Seeing posts about vacations and beaches would plunge me into the pit of despair. I told myself that as long as I am severed from the world’s movements and exciting activities, I would be fine.

I can’t travel, but that doesn’t mean my family, especially the kids, would stay put, too. I don’t have the heart to tie them at home. It’s always been like this in previous years: I plan their summer trips while I stayed at home, waiting eagerly for them and the photos of their adventures. I dreamed and prayed that it would be different this year…

But I find myself buying again 3, t-h-r-e-e not four, vouchers for a day tour at Island Cove in Kawit, Cavite. The kids would love it, what with the resort’s water park and wildlife sanctuary with karitela (horse-drawn carriage) ride. Then there’s Fishing Village where they would have their lunch, a restaurant above the waters held up by stilts, the appetizers are served in a sungka (the thought of it saddens me; my husband and I are both Pinoy foodies and it would have been great if I’d be with them). They will also visit the historic mansion of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo at the heart of Kawit. I’m happy for them (sigh).

But my heart aches. And I’m sure the Lord knows that. I don’t want to be bitter although my heart sometimes wants to slide down that road. I avoid it like the plague. Fastening myself to bitterness would be my undoing.

But still. I can’t calm my heart and soothe and shush it. I asked the Lord if that’s what He expects me to do: to put a vise grip around my heart and stop the flow of desires. To just be numb. That’s not the way to live, is it? Even Philippians 4:12-13 has turned shabby against the sheen of my heart’s deep longings. My emotions vacillate from wanting to sulk against the Lord to comforting myself with the gifts that surround me. I pray that envy, coveting, and comparing would be shaken off of me, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind (Rev. 6:13) or like the scales falling from Paul’s eyes, making him see completely.

And so I harbored the desires and longings and sadness and traces of bitterness in my heart like a heavy yoke. That is, until Good Friday when our Church relived the washing of feet while the choir sang in the background.

As brothers and sisters took turns in washing each other’s feet, I remembered the Lord Jesus. Hours before He would be crucified, He stooped down to wash each of His disciples’ feet. He humbly showed us how to truly serve. How not to obsess with our own selves and desires, but to focus on Him. Only on Him. That He should be enough. His beautiful presence in our lives. For it’s really all about Him.

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb. 12:2)

I’ve been so focused on what I’ve been missing and missing the Lord in the process.

Years ago, when my blissful honeymoon with my Savior overshadowed all illness and suffering, fears, uncertainties, and any latent desires, I had this spiritual visitation:

I was sitting on my high-back swivel chair (I used it as a wheelchair) in our bedroom, listening to praise music as I looked out the window. When Hillsong’s You Are Holy played, my spirit was caught up in the glorious chorus:

I’ll sing Your praises forever

Deeper in love with You

Here in Your courts where I’m close to Your throne

I’ve found where I belong.*

I felt my spirit soar. I sang along. And as I did, I had some kind of a conversation with a heavenly being. It went like this:

“If you were given the chance to choose between being able to walk but not sing and being able to sing but not walk, what would it be?” The angel asked.

I answered without hesitation. “I want to sing! I want to sing to the Lord! That’s what I want. Oh, please, make me be able to sing.” And I sobbed for the sincerity of my desire, the deep longing of my heart spilling. This was the time that I was too sick and weak to sing or walk more than a few steps. My desire to worship God trumped any other desires hidden in my heart.

Then years passed. Maybe prolonged illness and suffering could dull the sheen of ardency in one’s faith and love. Or maybe, partial healing could entice one to dream and want beyond one’s capability. Or maybe, life just happened with all it’s temptations, trials, and desires. And maybe these dreams and longings ignite a zest for more of life. Fire up extraordinary inspiration to dream big and rise up and soar like an eagle. In faith. Like the promise of Isaiah 40:31.

That would be great minus the intense feelings of envy and the pull of coveting and comparing. But if we learn to curb those unprofitable emotions and actions, to shove them aside and not dwell in them but in the everyday gifts of God and immerse one’s being in gratefulness and intentional thankfulness, those unsatisfied hungers that threaten to undo us would turn to deep satiety in Him we never knew was possible. And it is possible. All things are possible to Him.

So, delight in the Lord. Gladden ourselves in Him. He will never disappoint.

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Journey with Jesus,

Overcomer

My breakfast tray was placed before me but instead of presenting it with a cheerful “Good morning! Enjoy your breakfast!” as I would have loved, it was accompanied by heavy-handed remarks that plunged my heart and spirits to the floor all at once. If it’s a person close to you who does that, it’s really hard to recover from the hurt and discouragement it brings. That kind of discouragement which holds your heart like a vise grip. When your life is hard physically, you don’t need any more emotional challenges that try to snuff out what little hope you hold onto. You just want kindness and encouragement given intentionally or even sacrificially. You want compassion.

Overcomer

But then, other people have their own issues to work on, too, even if they are able-bodied. One has to consider that. They may have their own problematic attitudes and temper to deal with.  (And even if they don’t see the problem, changing people is not our job. It’s God’s. We have to leave it to Him). In my years of illness and suffering, I have learned to see outside of my situation and try to understand other people even though they are not walking the same difficult path as I am.

The wounds, my heart can absorb and forgive, and overtime, will heal and be forgotten, like a mist lifted off of the surface of the lake, making everything clear and shimmering once again. But the momentary discouragement is another thing. Although it is often momentary, it can still shake our hard-earned peace. When you’re ill, you need all the hope and encouragement you can get. But if it’s the opposite that’s thrown at you, that’s when you need to — overcome.

I stared at my breakfast tray, too sad and frustrated to make any move. Actually, it was already late for breakfast. And my breathing becomes labored and gets more difficult the longer I delay eating. But when you’re discouraged, you want to punish yourself all the more, maybe to elicit pity or stir up guilt feelings in the other person. I couldn’t eat. Didn’t want to eat. Self-pity, anger, frustration were all rising up within me. I hate being pitiful. I hate being weak and needy. I hate being miserable. But that’s what discouragement does.

Thank God the Holy Spirit within us doesn’t sleep. He’s alive! He clears up our muddled mind and emotions and speaks truth to us. Wisdom speaks: For whoever finds me finds life, And obtains favor from the Lord” (Prov. 8:35). And rebukes: “If you don’t eat, who will suffer? Does your not eating solve your problems and put into right all the wrongs?”

“Yes, I know. This wisdom is not from above and I’m being foolish,” I answered in my mind. Then I let James 3:17 land softly and settle there. I took a long, deep, cleansing breath, and as I exhaled, I released these words, squaring my shoulders: “JUST. OVERCOME.” I picked up my fork and began to eat, a smile curving my lips.

With the Holy Spirit and wisdom gained from the Word, we can command ourselves, “JUST OVERCOME”. And just like that, we are strengthened. With these two, the apostle Paul’s admonition to “overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21) can squeeze itself through our confused minds and hurting hearts and we will be able to do the right thing. There’s no use analyzing the other person’s abrasive attitude or insensitivity. It’s not our problem; don’t dwell on it for so long. We’ll just have to step up our prayers for that person in our life.

But it’s not only discouragements that we need to overcome. There are other, maybe harder, things that life throws at us which need our overcoming. It’s either we overcome or accept defeat. It’s do or die. Sometimes I imagine my life like a medieval race where there are almost impossible obstacles, like a giant swinging pendulum that you need to assess its frequency to be able to pass through it without it hitting you, for if it does, you will fall into a pit of waiting, hungry crocodiles.

Didn’t the writer of Hebrews say that our faith journey is a race?

… let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us… (Heb. 12:1)

Running the race in such a way that we obtain the prize (1 Cor. 9:24) takes great courage, discipline, patience, and perseverance.

In the earlier years after my salvation, I saw how there were so many hard things I needed to overcome: my sickness and suffering, the anxieties and fears it brought, and the constant threat of hopelessness. But after reading and meditating on the first few chapters of the Book of Revelation where the Lord tells us “To him who overcomes” seven times, I understood that I had to be an overcomer. I reasoned that if there was nothing for me to overcome, how could I be called an overcomer? So, I learned to be grateful for trials. For when God sees fit to train me in this regard, then I will have to yield myself to the learning process.

Thank God we don’t overcome on our own. We can’t possibly do that even if we tried. The years when I was outside of the Lord’s presence and protection, I had let all kinds of temptations enslave me. I didn’t have the spiritual strength to stand up against them. Yielding to temptation was easier than overcoming it. But those years are gone. Even so, our life with the Savior is not without tests and temptations. And I believe they have actually intensified when we aligned our lives with God, because we have set ourselves against His arch-enemy. When we wrestle with our thoughts and emotions, we are actually wrestling with the devil’s strongholds. Pride, fears, anger, envy, and all other human emotions that draw us away from God are his territory.

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. (2 Cor. 10:3-5)

What do you need to overcome in your life right now? Temptations in all its tricky disguises? For in essence, it’s really all a kind of temptation. It all began in the Garden of Eden. The tempter put out his temptation and got Eve’s attention. Eve failed to overcome it; Adam failed to overcome Eve. Because of their failure to overcome, sin entered the world. Satan became its god (2 Cor. 4:4). But that wasn’t the end. The Lord Jesus came and has overcome the world (John 16:33).

On our own, we can never overcome the world and all its tribulations. But because Jesus has overcome it, we can, too. Our victory is in Him. Whoever is not in Christ can be the devil’s puppet. He or she will never have enough power to stand up against him and overcome his works. But those who are in Christ are given these powerful weapons to overcome their accuser:

And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. (Rev. 12:11)

I thought about that last part – “they loved not their lives unto the death” – long and hard and came to realize that most of our defeats and miseries are spawned by our self-love. It’s loving our lives more than loving God. But the Lord has already warned us about it.

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. (Mat. 16:25)

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Journey with Jesus,

10 Ways to Find Beauty for Ashes

As true worshipers of God, we have this fervent desire to perfect our walk before Him, to be pleasing to Him in everything we do – every thought, every intent, every word, every endeavor, every work, every interaction. We want that the entirety of our life honors God, an offering and a sacrifice to Him for a sweet-smelling aroma. A life that is in itself a worship. Even David had this deep desire in him:

I will behave wisely in a perfect way…
I will walk within my house with a perfect heart. (Ps. 101:2)

beauty_for_ashes

It is what is at the heart of our daily prayers: to bring God joy, to delight Him with our everyday lives, not only to gain His overflowing favor, but because it is what the Holy Spirit has planted in our heart of hearts. It is the very reason we exist – our lives giving glory to God.

But doing daily life has its own challenges. It’s never really smooth sailing. Stumbling stones will suddenly appear on our paths, often at times when we least expect them. A child might have disrespected us, bringing us pain and great disappointment. Another child might be being difficult and before we know it, we had come to the end of our patience, we had shouted, or spoken harshly, and we had hurt the child’s feelings and brought him/her to tears.

Or maybe a spouse’s gross insensitivity has deeply wounded us and we just want to curl up in misery and drown in our own tears. We are utterly frustrated and we don’t even know how to begin to overcome our grief. Or maybe we desperately want it to work out so we try to talk, at first calmly explaining, even pleading with tears for an open mind and heart, for understanding and a reconciliation at the end. But maybe the spouse is really being difficult, impossible even! And before you know it, you’re fighting back word for word, hurt for hurt. Your morning prayer for a perfect heart and walk before God has been ruthlessly trampled. The atmosphere of love, joy, and peace in the home that you so greatly desire has turned into a nightmare, one that you so want to banish from your memory (especially if you’re still recovering from another similar episode) and be healed of it.

What do you do when you desire beauty in your life but ugliness comes to invade instead? When peace and praise and joy are what you want ringing in your home, but instead, strifes and harsh words and weeping echo off the walls?

The following will save the day during those plowing through stormy, turbulent seas of this thing called life:

1. Pray

Do not let the ugly encounter end there: ugly. After the angry spouse or child has stormed out and slammed the door behind them, fall on your knees. Often, you don’t know what to say, where to start. You are filled with confusion, hurt, disappointment, and all other emotions whirling inside you like a hurricane. Just call out to God and tell it as it is. He has all the time in the world to listen. Tell Him all about it. Your. need. for. His. help. Unload the heavy weight that threatens to rip your chest apart. You may be discouraged about everything but NEVER BE DISCOURAGED IN PRAYING! Don’t give up on God; He will never give up on you! Pour out your heart. Confess, repent, beg.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:7).

2. Praise

Go up a few rungs higher. If you thought praise is only for those who feel like rejoicing, think again! With your heavy, grieving heart and unsettled mind, enter the Lord’s presence with solemn, soulful songs of praise. Sing even amid sobs, letting the tears flow freely. Let the lyrics be a prayer drawn from the depths of your soul. Sing until you feel the Savior’s embrace with His soothing words of acceptance and unfailing love. Sing until the clouds of ugliness is lifted off your heart and home. Sing until beauty blooms in every corner of your heart and spreads to every member of your family.

3. Intentionally Create a Reason for Thanksgiving

There was a long season in our life when my husband and I couldn’t seem to strike up harmony within our marriage. This was after we had reconciled (after more than two years of estrangement), had received the Lord’s salvation, and I was already very ill I had to stop working. It was apparent that the fruit of the Holy Spirit in either of us (though in varying magnitude) was a long time coming. We stood on different ends of the sensitivity scale. I am the kind of person who wants to talk heart-to-heart, to sort things out with hearts and minds wide open, and resolve them with words that bridge and heal. He was the kind who didn’t want to open up his heart and express himself, and when he’s prodded, the words came out wounding.

What I often did after having prayed and/or praised, I would cook a very special dish, set up the table and gather the kids around. I would lift up a prayer of thanksgiving for just… everything, then we would eat and celebrate despite the ugliness that had just occurred. Gathering around the table to partake of food especially cooked in love and celebrating with the Lord who makes it all possible will draw beauty into our lives and homes.

Banish the ugliness by intentionally creating beauty with God’s grace.

4. Witness

No, you don’t like to curl up in a corner and sulk and wallow in self-pity and misery. You are an overcomer, more than a conqueror. You will not speak anything that will dishonor God. You will not ambush a family member or a friend (or even your housekeeper or caregiver!) to catch all your bitter complaints. But this is what you will do: you will testify of the goodness, mercy, and faithfulness of God. You will talk about what He has done and continues to do in your life. You will highlight His works, not somebody’s faults and failings. Remembering God’s wondrous deeds and talking about them will take back the victory the devil has stolen.

5. Rest

Whether you were embroiled in a fight or you’re sick and waiting for healing, rest will do you a world of good. Rest will bring a lull to a stressful situation, a time to cool and calm down and steady your heart. Rest is a whisper to your spirit, “I care for you.” You may rest in different ways: sit and just be still, nap, read a psalm and meditate on it, have a tea for one, write on your journal (express your feelings on the pages or write a prayer), etc. However you choose to rest, it should bring you peace. It should push away ugly thoughts from your mind and bring in warmth and serenity to your soul like a flannel blanket in a stormy night. Rest refreshes the mind and body and enables you to think clearly.

6. Talk Heart-to-Heart

There should be a resolution to the conflict and a time for reconciliation. Communication is the key. Communicate, not to further play the blame game, but to build a bridge. “Communication translates the Greek word logos, which means to speak intelligently, to articulate a message…”*. You may invite the child involved into your room and talk heart-to-heart. If you’ve hurt their feelings, be humble enough to own up to your mistake and sincerely say sorry. Set a good example on how to humble down and honor others. With all love and gentleness, encourage them to open up their heart and talk.

If talking heart-to-heart is not a good idea (there are men who hate it, I think), write the involved party a letter. Your words should show no more of the accusations but a humbling down, an offering of peace and forgiveness or a plea for one.

7. Do Some Home Beautifying

Dwell not in the ugly thoughts and emotions. Do some “house-warming” to blow away those cobwebs from your mind. Arrange fresh flowers in a vase; light a scented candle; play praise music; plump up the throw pillows, change their cases; fix fresh fruits in a tray. Whatever you do to enliven your home, it should speak of your love to all those who live in it.

8. Do Some Gardening

This activity will surely cool your head and calm your heart. Cultivate the earth around the plants;  sprinkle fertilizer; deadhead, prune, trim; water the plants. Gardening will help you gather back joy into your life. Find refreshment and inspiration for your spirit while you’re out there: the cool breeze caressing your face, the sun’s rays seeping through the trees, the birds flitting from branch to branch, the sun-dappled grass, the spread of dandelions. All these God gives for your enjoyment. Whisper a “Thank You” toward heaven for His gifts.

9. Create Something

Dabble with watercolor, paint, draw, do origami. With your whole attention focused on your work to create something beautiful, you will not have time endlessly thinking and analyzing the ugly and hurtful events. You have prayed and placed everything in God’s hands. Now, stop fretting. You may do these activities with your kids. Craft together, laugh together. Create art, create fun, create love.

10. Take a Walk

Thank God for your strong two feet! Walking is a very rewarding activity but do it to draw closer to God. Use this quiet time to talk with Him, every step a praise, a remembrance of His loving-kindness.

Don’t fret about the troubles and trials that come, but let them bring us ever closer to our God.

*From A Word for the Day by J. D Watson, p. 76.

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