A Wall and a Window

Growing up into an adult, I noticed a peculiar aspect of my personality: I was the kind of person who observed people, even strangers, and try to think about their lives, their homes, their work. I study their countenance, the furrows on the brows, the longing in the eyes, the faraway look, the slumped shoulders, the crinkles at the corners of the eyes when they smile, and I would try to look beyond what my eyes could see. I would look at a woman sitting on a bench, for example, and I would begin to think, “What is she feeling? Does she have a problem at home that weighs down on her heart? How are her home and family look like?” Or maybe an aging man, and these things would run through my mind, “Does he have happy grandchildren that love him to pieces? Or is he longing for the days of old, when life was far different that it is now? Is he estranged from his daughter. Does he long for her?”

WINDOW. My watercolor painting on 9" x 12" wc paper. (Reference photo for this painting by Sonja Aric via Instagram).

WINDOW. My watercolor painting on 9″ x 12″ wc paper. (Reference photo for this painting by Sonja Aric via Instagram).

One time, I told my older sister about this peculiarity in me and asked her if she did the same. She said no, she never did that and asked why would I do that?

One day many years ago, I stopped at a busy intersection at a plush village where the wealthy Filipino-Chinese reside. A young boy about 7 years old played on the bars of a gasoline station at the corner. His sampaguita garlands hung at the end of the bar while he played. I watched and drew up this story in my mind: he was a happy boy. Though he was poor, he had a loving mother who fed him, washed his clothes (his t-shirt was shabby but tidy), and sent him to the public school. Tears pooled at the corner of my eyes and I sniffed.

Do you observe people that way, even ones you do not know? Do you look beyond what you see on their facade?

If you do, then you might love to talk with people face to face, too. You want to listen while studying their expressions: the purple spider web veins peeking through translucent skin, how their eyes light up, or show coldness in their depths.

What delights you? People and conversations, words spoken, the resonance and cadence of voices, funny stories and the bursts of laughter punctuating them? Stories that stir up the soul and make you want to reach out to the person and squeeze their hands? To look at the tears that stream down from their eyes and make you want to whisper words, words that, if possible, were drawn from the heart of heaven itself, to soothe that sorrowing soul and stop the flow of tears?

But technology is changing all that. Do people, especially the younger generation, still observe people? Are they learning to study people and learning to empathize in the process? Do we still visit with one another and make delectable conversations without the intrusion of gadgets? 

When the husband comes home from work, does he lounge in his favorite chair, put up his tired feet on a stool and start conversation with you? You have probably been waiting for him and are eager to hear about his day, or he about your day. There are stories to be told, things to be discussed, anecdotes to be shared.

But he opens up his cellphone and launches on a date with the Internet. Or Facebook. He is (more) eager to  browse and read of other people’s stories than his and yours. You get hurt and dismayed.

A virtual wall, as high as the Berlin wall and as wide as the Great Wall of China, is built.

If communication between spouses or the parents and their teens are already strained, the wall the gadgets build could prove to be indestructible. Communication, which is vital in our relationships, would suffer greatly. If people don’t intentionally foster healthy communication within their marriages and families, there is no real growth, both in the individuals and the relationship as a whole. People would not flourish as they should but may get lonely and depressed, or worse, indifferent.

The smartphone, the iPad, or any other gadget that makes one captive, is a sturdy wall that divides us from our spouses and/or families and it is not easily broken down. No, not even with a battering ram.

Do people still talk face to face? In waiting lines and lounges, in the parking lot, in the public market, in the park. Or have we discarded that and bury only our faces in our gadgets? I have seen weird pictures where people in a public place are lost in their gadgets and no one was talking to any one.

Do we want to behold our screens more that the faces of the people in our lives?

In our home, I fight tooth and nail against the invasion of gadgets and do my best to not let the wall rise up to such extent that it’s impossible to scale it. I fight to break down the walls these gadgets are creating and sadly, there has been a lot of tears shed on my part. But I m not buckling down and giving up an inch. If my family had its way, the gadgets would not be put down. But I fight for the old ways. I want to treasure those things that gadgets cannot replace: story-telling and rings of laughter around the table after dinners, heart-to-heart talks between a parent and a child, or between the husband and the wife. No walls. No barricades. No screens.

But even though social media has been abused that we have let it divide us from people, it is also a window to the world in forging new friendships.

There is no clearer example of that than in my life. I haven’t been able to go out these many years. My world revolves around our bedroom and the adjoining patio which leads to a small garden. I have not been receiving visitors except for family members composed of my mother, siblings, and niece. (The excitement of visiting exhausts me). I haven’t relished friendships in the longest time, the way I had before I fell ill. Two of my closest friends now live in Canada. In my whole ailing life, I had considered myself friendless.

That is, until I met a new friend through Instagram. She is a watercolorist like me, except that she is strong and healthy and has a career. We are both moms, about the same age, and most of all, we both love the Lord Jesus Christ. Soon, she was sharing her professional fine watercolors to me, which she has in piles, at cost prices. We began the habit of chatting on Viber and encourage each other regarding our art. She insisted that we meet and paint together. I would have loved that, for she has a storeroom of fine watercolor paints and brushes collected from around the world 😀 . Except that, I can’t travel farther than our living room.

So, we started to paint at the same time but in our own homes using the same model as reference. This arrangement has excited us, pushed us to persevere when the painting gets tough 😀 , and challenged us to do our very best and reach our maximum potential.

Even Felix my husband is happy that I had found a friend, if only through social media.

 Social media can either be a wall or a window. Choose now how it will serve us.

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Where We’re Sown

Maybe we silently lament in our heart of hearts why the Lord planted us in hard places where we think we cannot grow, flourish, and bear fruit as much as we need to. Difficult marriages, divided families, noisy or hostile neighborhood, unsafe community, hypocritical workplace, are just some of the “soils” in which we may find ourselves sown. We believe that had we been sown in a more conducive, nurturing environment, we would be taking up healthy roots, springing out new green shoots, and growing up sturdy limbs and lush foliage until we blossom and mature, bearing fruits that are beneficial to others.

where we're sown

David wrote of the blessedness of such a man:

He shall be like a tree
    Planted by the rivers of water,
    That brings forth its fruit in its season,
    Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper. (Ps. 1:3)

We long for our marriages to be rich soils wherein our souls thrive, our minds expand, and our hearts heal and are transformed. We dream of conversations that flow smoothly like a stream of fresh water in an unsullied forest, bridging the hearts, mending the broken places, lifting up the weary soul, encouraging the weak and fearful mind. To hear words that minister grace to our teetering courage and disposition. Or receive warm appreciation for our own sincere efforts, the embrace of it expands our chests and makes us bolder to run more purposefully. In this way, we have grown.

But what if the soil wherein we were planted erodes little by little because of the dry and harsh environment? What if our roots cannot grow deeper and wider because the soil tends to be barren, rocky, hostile? What strong limbs, lush foliage, beautiful blooms, and abundant fruits can develop and grow from them?

This scenario can be compared to the terrain of our hearts, minds, and souls. Are our minds shrinking in virtues and expanding in sensuality, like harboring bitter envying and strife in [our] hearts (see James 3:14-16)? Are frequent strifes [vigorous or bitter conflicts and discordswhat reside in our hearts more than the fullness of the Holy Spirit and His works, just because it is what our environment provides for us?

We think of others’ lives and situations and believe that their marriages are blissful, their families are next to perfect, their jobs are their dream jobs, their communities are peaceful and safe. How excellent it would be if spouses are worshiping and praying together, resolving problems peacefully without creating more strifes, forbearing [patient and self-controlled when subject to annoyance or provocation] one another, not desiring to have the last word or win a fight!

But a harsh or hostile environment could work for us three ways: quit and flee, stay and be stagnant, or stay and grow despite of.

Quitting and fleeing are not easy things to do. You cannot just walk out of a marriage or family just because you believe you cannot grow therein. For a Christian man or woman, that could be the hardest and most painful thing. Not to count the fact that we might be disobeying and displeasing God with our (selfish) decision. When we quit and flee, we are saying to God that we reject what He has planned and purposed for us.

When we choose to stay but succumb to the devil’s work, we will become spiritually stagnant. We will not grow and have no fruits to show of our faith. We will be desiring to walk worthy of God’s calling one moment, then weak enough to be pulled down by a spouse’s (or a family member’s, a co-worker’s, a neighbor’s) unkindness the next. Weak in that, instead of falling on our knees in prayer and forgiveness, we seethe in repressed resentment. We become bitter instead of better. Our souls shrink instead of grow and soar. And the more we think about our pitiful plight, the more we become resentful and bitter. What a vicious cycle!

But that is not the kind of life God has called us to. For the kingdom of God is … righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17). Righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit – those are the first fruits of our life in the Spirit. How can we have them in the hard places where we were sown? AND how can we not not have them?  Are the power and work of the Holy Spirit constrained by our environment? That can only be so if we let it. Greater is he that is in [us], than he that is in the world (see 1 John 4:4).

Could it be that God sowed us in this very same place we are at so we can grow deeper and wider and higher, because of the very same things that we thought retarded our growth and fruition? Could it be that the seeming harshness and barrenness of the terrain are the very things that plunge us closer and deeper to God and our knowledge of Him?

For we are called not only to grow and bear fruit, but live to help others grow and bear fruit, too! If we flee the hard places – the people who challenge our faith, peace, and joy, who hurt and try to pull us down – how can we minister to them and help them establish a deeper relationship with Christ? Maybe God is teaching us to be humble, obedient, long-suffering, courageous, and steadfast, so that we can teach the difficult people in our lives by our good example, when they see our respectful and pure conduct (1 Pet. 3:2). Maybe God put us here, the very place we lament and want to flee from, so that together we can grow, by our show of humility, love, and sacrifice. By putting on Christ.

Wherever we are sown, we can grow and thrive when we make God’s Word fuelled by the Holy Spirit the rich soil that will nurture us each and every day. God has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness that we may be partakers of His divine nature.

I invite you to read the following passage, digesting each powerful phrase and letting it settle into our heart, mind, and soul and find its home there. May this good, precious advice from the apostle Peter empower us to live fruitful lives even in a tundra (cold) or a desert (dry) environment and be a salt and light in that place.

For it is not our environment that will dictate the quality of our spiritual life, but our intimate relationship with God.

His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

5 …For this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Pet. 1:3-8)

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Journey with Jesus,

Love Your Love Story {A Marriage Tale Part 2}

I want to have a body scrub,” she said quietly, when her husband came into the room to carry her to the bathtub for her evening bath.

“What body scrub?” He asked. He wasn’t frowning, but he wasn’t smiling either.

“Strawberry body scrub. You bring down the box of The Body Shop from the rack. It’s there. I want to try it.” She stripped off her clothes as her husband locked the door.

marriage tale2

She sat on a towel spread out on the bed. He squirted the thick scrub and began to rub it on her body. The sweet strawberry scent covered them both. “This is like a pure strawberry jam,” he commented while concentrating on spreading the red “jam” peppered with little black seeds, the fruity scrub and his strokes smoothing out and soothing her skin and flesh.

“I think these little black beads are the strawberries’ seeds,” she said with contentment in her voice. Then they were quiet for a while as her man did his job. She is learning not to talk too much when they are together like this. Or complain. She knows the consequences to her comments and complaints. He doesn’t like them.

“Are we done yet?” He finally asked.

“Yes. I’m ready for the bath,” she answered as she ran her hands on her smoothened skin. “This scrub makes the skin soft and silky, especially the backside. I want that when you touch me in that part, it doesn’t feel rough,” she said, smiling. They have been married 16 years, but oh, it wouldn’t hurt if she flirted with her husband from time to time, would it?

“Well, when I touch you there, I don’t notice the roughness. My mind focuses on the task at hand,” he answered, poker face. But she knew better. This was his game. He loved bantering with her about intimate things. And yes, she believed him when he said he didn’t notice her external imperfections. Having been ill these many years, there were long seasons when all she could manage was a sponge bath or none at all. But he came to bed and lay beside her night after night (except for those times when they fought and wanted to give her space), not minding at all how she smelled. No, he’s never finicky.

There was a time when her unwashed hair had tangled up so badly it had formed a thick, heavy nest on her head. But he didn’t comment then, only to offer to untangle it. And during the times that she could shampoo her hair, she intentionally snuggled in his chest to let him know her hair smelled good, for a change. The way he gathered her in his arms and buried his head on her hair and kissed it was exactly the same way when she was unwashed. He still kissed the top of her head even when she had a nest of a tangle.

When she looked (and felt) so sick and unsightly, he never showed any traces of distaste. That’s the no. 1 thing she likes in him. She doesn’t have to feel ashamed with him. She can be herself around him and never worry that he will be turned off or his love wane. Still, there were times years ago that she had felt insecure (but that’s another story).

Done with the body scrub, he braced himself to carry her to the bathroom. “Oh, I’d be very slippery!” She said, chortling a little. There was one time when he lifted her out of the bathtub, wet and bare, she almost slipped out of his arms. Since then, he would cover her with her robe first.

And she was slippery and wiggly! Weak from hardly-suppressed laughing, he almost dropped her. But he didn’t. He never ever dropped her. Not even once, these past 20+ years that they had known each other.

She can trust him that much. She can trust his love that much.

But in her heart and mind, the unpleasant spats almost always surface. She easily sees his defects and faults like a laser. And not too long ago, her heart had screamed silently, “I don’t like him!” No, she didn’t hate him and she knew she would always love him, on a foundational level, but liking a person, or a man, is a different thing, right? Or maybe she got that idea from a blog… Or a movie? Was it her favorite North & South by Elizabeth Gaskell? Margaret dismissed John Thornton’s profession of love and marriage proposal with “I don’t love you. I don’t even like you.” Ouch!

But yes, she does believe that a woman has to like a man for their marriage to even prosper and succeed. She has to like his manners, his attitudes, his integrity, his character, his principles. To sum it all up: She has to admire him. And if she is really honest, her man has those qualities (and annoying ones, too!).

Maybe she had focused too much on his imperfections (like his inability to communicate and articulate with words and express himself from the heart) and not on his works. But oh, how she would love for him to talk, and talk from the heart the words that she had been longing to hear from him all their life together. But he had told her clearly twice (when he was pressed to answer) that he was not a man who talked like that. She was stunned and dejected those two times.

The third time, there was a slight twist. He told her not to expect him to talk like that but just to see his works.

One time, she accused him of not admiring her watercolor paintings. “Why do you say so?” He asked.

“Because you never say so,” she answered pointedly.

“When I drive to Greenbelt to buy your very costly Winsor & Newton paints, that means I admire and support your work,” he said evenly.

“Yes! Yes, of course!” And she laughed, satisfied. If she could dance, she would have. She wanted to try Winsor & Newton paints but didn’t know they were that expensive (~$18 per tube), but he bought them anyway, not informing her beforehand.

But she forgets. If she is honest enough to admit, she has the habit of comparing their marriage to others. When would she ever learn that that would never work? Comparing just brings her deeper into feelings of dismay, disappointment, and dissatisfaction.

She knows her husband never does that thing – comparing. He is so uncomplicated like that.

But what possesses her heart is the sadness that she can’t seem to brag about their marriage, their love story, like other wives do. She often sees only the ugly and imperfect parts, rarely the grace-filled beauty.

Maybe that’s the product of a perfectionist mind – it focuses on and magnifies the flaws, the good parts covered by dusts of high expectations and disappointments.

She knows so well that her husband is a perfectly imperfect human being, as she and all others are. That’s why people need a Savior. The Lord Jesus is the author and perfecter of their faith and all the other things attached to it: Christian attitudes and character, love, spiritual maturity. He is the author, perfecter, and transformer of their lives.

The Lord has taught her that only by His grace poured out into their hearts, and them pouring out this same grace to each other, can their marriage become beautiful. Grace received and grace given. In the deepest sense and practice of the phrase.

She will learn to love their love story. Because in the end, it’s really God’s story.

(Photo from Pinterest).

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The Grass Cutter and the Porcelain Tea Set (A Marriage Tale)

My husband told me how my sister-in-love in Florida had mentioned to him the challenge she encountered in packing our purchases. We shopped online from stores in the USA and had them delivered to her address. She then packed the items in a big courier box to be shipped to us. It will be cheaper that way than have the stores ship directly to us. She told her Kuya Felix how she had puzzled in arranging his grass cutter in such a way that my pretty and fragile porcelain tea set would not be crushed to smithereens.

Later on as I lay in bed facing my framed Gracelaced arts on the wall, the thought was still on my mind and I smiled to myself. Grass cutter and porcelain tea set. I marvelled both at the beauty and paradox of that. Iron and porcelain. Exact opposites – strength and fragile beauty  – yet exhibiting fierce attraction to each other, like positive and negative poles. In chemistry, like cation and anion reacting powerfully. A man and a woman. A husband and wife, exactly as God has destined it to be. Adam and Eve.

It has always been that way from the beginning. In the garden of Eden. God’s perfect design. And God saw that it was good.

Call me an incurable, hopeless romantic but that’s how I’ve always seen the differences between a man and a woman. There are distinct differences and they are wonderful. They stir up powerful emotions in both man and woman as God has purposed. Although women now inhabit the men’s world, pursuing careers that previously labeled as men’s and doing things that were previously exclusive to the “stronger vessel”, in the realm of love and marriage, the differences that God had put in place in the beginning are still intact. And no one can change that.

I’ve always seen my husband as the stronger one physically. And yes, even emotionally. Although I exhibited (still do!) a very strong personality, ruthlessly pursuing a career in chemical engineering and putting up my own chemicals company, his were the sturdy shoulders I cried on when I failed, was hurt or frustrated. His were the arms which held and carried me when I was too sick and weak to bring myself to the hospital. I always loved that with my husband: him capably carrying me in his arms, his masculine strength a contrast to my feminine frame.

The extreme feminists out there may strongly disagree, but I cannot and will not climb our roof to check leaks, or walk precariously in our dingy ceiling to check faulty electrical wirings, nor can I see myself climbing up a ladder, setting up CCTV around the house. In our home, my husband will always be the handyman, and me, the queen who enjoys her porcelain tea set.

One time many years ago when we were still dating and I was a hardworking career woman whose only rest was when I fell sick, he rushed to my apartment, flung open my closet to get my bathrobe, and scooped me up in his arms even before I could tie the robe around my pajama-clad, very sick self. He brought me to the hospital and took care of me everyday until I was well. He took a leave from work just to do that. This happened every other year, as was the pattern of my workaholic life then. I knew then that he was a man who would take care of me through thick and thin. That and the fact that he made me laugh were what made him precious to me.

But our relationship wasn’t always that beautiful and pat. Far from it, actually. The years that we dated each other were peppered with ugliness: shameful fights and bad choices. When we finally got married, on the outside, my dream wedding was fulfilled: a beautiful silk wedding gown created by a famous couturier, a wedding singer who performed in theaters, and a wedding reception at The Garden Ballroom of The Shangri-La. The gold-lined invitations were expensive and classy. But looking back now with the heart and mind of a born-again Christian, I can only shake my head in regret. Though our wedding was almost perfect according to the world’s standards, the events behind it, the real love story, weren’t that pure, let alone perfect.

I cannot count the times that I wished I could rewrite our history: our dating years, engagement, wedding, and the early years of marriage. We weren’t born-again Christians then. We walked in step with the world. We practiced what the world practiced. Many times I daydreamed of recreating our honeymoon, the very first night we became husband and wife. How beautiful it would have been had we been walking with the Lord then!

But we cannot rewrite our love story, how it unfolded, then crumbled hopelessly (just a year into marriage, it was an epic fail), and how I would have liked it told differently. We cannot brag about it as if it was taken from the pages of a beautiful romance novel, for it is far from that. What we can boast of instead is the grace of God that was poured out upon it unsparingly: how our marriage, marred by sins as dark as a moonless night and as crimson as fresh blood, was mercifully salvaged from the ash heap by the loving hands of the Savior and restored into His love and light.

The memories, replete with shame and sin, still make me shake my head when they sneak into my mind. The claws of the past still reach me sometimes. But, oh, how I give thanks to God for His beautiful gift: He makes all things new! In that one, short sentence is all the weight of my regrets and repentance carried and borne away as far away from me as the West will never meet the East. In it is the summation of my peace, my joy, my hope. God makes all things new in Christ. He blots out all past sins and remembers them no more.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Cor. 5:17)

I will never stop marvelling at God’s indescribable gift: the gift of a new life. Redemption. Restoration. Renewal. My life – past, present, and future – is poured out in this: the Lord Jesus Christ has become my sanctification, my holiness, my salvation! I just had to look it up again, that it’s really there, written on the pages of the ancient Book – the truth that set me free!

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor. 6:9-12, emphasis mine)

This year, we celebrate 15 years of marriage. We would have loved to renew our vows on a hill in the country, under a wedding dais decorated with a curtain of white orchids, a brightly-lit, cascading, crystal chandelier hanging at the center, and surrounded by loved ones, friends, and Church family. But I cannot walk. So, we embrace what is there to be had. Each other. And our two precious offsprings. And the sacrificial love that is a testimony to our tried and tested life.

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Journey with Jesus,

It’s Crystal!

Fifteen years of marriage today. We are celebrating our Crystal Wedding Anniversary and what can I say?

It’s ALL grace.

We could have planned a renewal of vows in a beautiful venue atop the mountains, surrounded by an abundance of flowers, and a smattering of loved ones and very intimate friends smiling from ear to ear, blessing us and cheering us on. Later on, we could have gone somewhere exotic, where we could have some time alone together. For it’s been ages since we did that last.

But there are more urgent matters at hand. Like my health. Yes, always my health. It has been the front and center of family plans and activities (or lack thereof). My illness is a painful obstacle. A heavy burden. For almost 12 years now. But the good news is — I haven’t lost hope nor faith! My trust and confidence remain in the God of heaven who only does wondrous things. I believe forever!

And this we still can do:

 Rejoice always

Pray without ceasing

In everything give thanks

For this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thess. 5:16-18)

We will receive with thanksgiving whatever measure and form of grace God will delight to give. For I still believe that He will give what is good (Ps. 85:12).

(And what a coincidence that my beloved husband bought me a crystal chandelier from a secondhand/antique shop for our bedroom a few days before our anniversary. The handyman that he is, he fixed it in no time. And I love it. Crystal for a crystal anniversary ~ blessed).

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Journey with Jesus,

 

Trading Conversations with Gadgets

If there’s one thing I want to throw away, that is my husband’s iPad. When my husband comes home for lunch, he opens his iPad and closes it only when he’s ready to go back to the office. When he arrives in the afternoon and snacks while resting, his iPad is in front of him. Before dinner, he is glued to his iPad. After dinner, even before I’m finished eating (because I’m always the last one to finish), his iPad stands on the table between us. I so want to throw his iPad. I’m sure you get the picture? Is it the same scene in your homes, too?

(image source)

This is the painful part: since I can’t go out because of my illness, our bedroom is my world. That’s the truth (but please don’t pity me ~ :) ). Since our bedroom is in front of the house (beside the living room), I hear all sounds from the street and the neighbors’ movements across it. But I only see the street and the people and cars passing – from my window. From the bed (which is my writing and reading place, etc.), I can also gaze at the patio and garden through the french doors and watch the bunnies dart and nibble on my poor, undernourished plants. I hear the birds’ excited warbling amongst the branches of the narra tree but I can’t see them flitting and fluttering their wings.

Those are the sights and sounds of my day, everyday, from morning ’til dusk. That is, until the husband and kids arrive from the office and school in the afternoon. Only then my world becomes alive with human interactions.

But most of the day, my world is silent. Only my mind is full of conversations and words and chatter, which come out through writing novels and blogging (I just completed my first novel The Homecoming).

So, you understand that I crave for conversations. I’ve always loved conversations. All kinds – playful bantering with a Kindergarten kid, serious exchange with an elderly neighbor, frenzied chatter with a good friend, animated discussion with a spouse or better yet, a romantic conversation, heart-to-heart talk with a teenage child. I could go on and mention a wonderful exchange with a stranger (not the dangerous kind, mind you), the giddy exchange with a new acquaintance, and so on.

But I don’t think that world still exists today: when people talk to each other, eye to eye, noticing the nuances and inflections of the voice and language; how the corners of the eyes crinkle at a warm statement, or the lips twitch trying to stifle a smile, when a solitary tear trickles down the side of a face because a word has touched a person? Do couples, families, the world, still talk to each other? Really talk to each other, as in they are all there?

This is not a rare scene at home: husband is glued to his iPad, daughter to her smart phone, son to a borrowed cellphone or laptop (usually checking origami-making videos), and me, to my Macbook. The room is quiet. No one is talking to another. Where have spoken words gone? I once saw a picture of a small restaurant (more of a carinderia) with the sign: NO WIFI, TALK TO EACH OTHER! Exactly!

While my husband is gone, I plan the things I want to tell him when he comes home – some serious, some funny, some sweet. When I hear him at the door, I shut my laptop (after I’ve saved whatever I was writing) and eagerly anticipate a good conversation with him. But he gets hold of his iPad and I’m forgotten. At the dining table, I looove to talk (that’s the best place to talk, I think). When the kids leave the table, I’m excited to talk with my husband, but his eyes flit from the iPad to me, usually giving me a blank stare. It’s frustrating to say the least!

But one day, I put my foot down and told him this must stop. Thankfully, my hundred spoken words or so had their effect on my husband and he changed his ways.

We need real conversations, people!

I love how the King James version of the Bible puts it:

Thus were they defiled with their own works,
and went a whoring with their own inventions. (Ps. 106:39)

If you have been blessed by your visit here, please like Our Healing Moments on Facebook and connect with me there. Thank you!

I might be linking up with these lovely blogs and Still Saturday and Coffee for Your Heart.

Journey with Jesus,

What Makes for a Beautiful Marriage

I’ve read quite a few stories of Christian weddings where the bride and groom kissed for the first time or were together as man and wife for the first time on their first night. My tears flowed at one time after reading one of those stories shared on Christian blogs. For isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be? Coming together for the very first time on your wedding night? That was also my fervent dream growing up. But somewhere between my young girl dream and marriage at 33, that idealism was lost completely. For the ways of the world never collide with the ways of holiness.

And so, looking back, even if the bride that I was was garbed in a designer wedding gown, rode on a stretched limousine, and me and my groom received guests at the grand ballroom of a 5-star hotel — I regretted the path we took to reach the altar. Crying one night, I told my husband how I wished we could remake that one single day and night in our lives and experience how it was to be a pure, blushing bride.

Then came the 2-year chasm in the marriage where the sin of adultery reigned. How can one redeem the beauty of a ruined marriage?

My answer is this: It starts with the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no other who can turn the ashes into beauty. He it is who makes a marriage sacred. In the flurry of our glitzy Catholic wedding, we had completely forgotten to invite Him into our lives. Thus, there was no blessing in the real sense of the word. But one solemn afternoon in our living room, me, dressed in a simple white suit and my husband in his barong tagalog, a preacher from our Church blessed us as husband and wife. It was our Christian wedding. And it was beautiful. Why? Because of the grace of the Lord which washed us from our sins and made us white as snow. Grace is beautiful. Forgiveness is its crown.

To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified. (Is. 61:3)

I have not seen a perfect marriage in my world from my childhood to adulthood. Everywhere I look (that is, the ones that I can look into),  I see flaws, some kind of ugliness, and some measure of pain. Our marriage is one of those. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t carry its own beauty. With the love and grace of the Lord, beauty can never be absent.

I see beauty whenever my husband assists to wash me. From the top of my head to the tip of my toes, he lovingly and efficiently bathes me while we talk. Sometimes we break down laughing and I will spray him with the shower head. Those are the times I’m strong. Sometimes, we’re quiet as I endure the whole process, sitting still in my wheelchair. Those are the times I’m weak and not feeling well.

I love to read and tell stories. My husband reads only the Holy Bible and the news. We’re completely opposing poles, like a cation and an anion (excuse the terminology, I’m a ChE anyway :) ). But he loves to listen to the stories I tell about the books I read. When I can’t sleep at night (and that’s often because of my discomforts), he either massages my legs or listens to my stories. There are nights I burst out laughing because of something I remembered while he stifles his huge yawns. Later on, he’ll be chuckling with me.

What makes for a beautiful marriage? It’s the Lord Jesus Christ who holds it together and showers it with His daily grace. It’s the love you share, at times sacrificial, at other times covering. However it looks like, it all emanates from His love.

At night when my husband is already snoring at my side, I marvel at the beauty of a man and a woman sleeping side by side in their marriage bed. Don’t you? (That’s for my married readers).

If you have been blessed by your visit here, please like Our Healing Moments on Facebook and connect with me there. Thank you!

I might be linking up with these lovely blogs and Coffee for Your Heart.

Journey with Jesus,

A Friend in Jesus

Sorrow and suffering bring you to a place where you can know the deep things in life. Deeper faith, deeper understanding, deeper sensitivity. These are the gifts that come along with them. Sometimes, they drive you to a deep need to reach out and open up, or, shut up the world from your life and just settle in your shell to avoid being hurt. I have been in and out of both, but reaching out to share has always had the upper hand.

(Image from Google)

After a usual day alone with my writing interspersed with suffering, my husband finally came home in the afternoon. Often, we just have snacks together and talk about trivial things (sometimes I just prefer to clam up and not tell how hard my day has been). But this time, I had the overwhelming urge to tell him about the book I’ve started to write. I told him that he’s the only soul I’ve shared what the book is all about, then proceeded to show eagerly the first few chapters. He was nodding but distracted. Before I was finished, he stopped me (not rudely) and said, “Can we just cut it short because I want to take a nap.” I have known this forever. That he’s someone who is rarely interested with books, or reading, or writing, or analyzing (he only reads news and sometimes the Bible). Why I keep forgetting this fact in our life is entirely my fault. Although I know all this, I still get hurt and I still long to have someone to talk to about the things that interest me.

But I have to quietly accept the fact that husbands can’t be everything. Mine does sacrificial love every single day: massages my atrophied legs late at night when I can’t sleep; assists me in bathing and washing my hair; runs errands – the things I want him to check out or buy in stores, etc. etc. But he can’t be all I want him to be. That wouldn’t be fair. Husbands are not all-in-one.  That’s why there are women friends. And I’m in want of one.

I had a friend once who knew all my flaws but still didn’t think of deserting me. She was the one who would volunteer to walk with me the whole length of Mega Mall for the nth time because I finally decided to buy the blouse, or the dress, or the pair of shoes. She would do her best to keep her drooping eyes open while I talked into the night. But I made sacrifices for her, too. I would endure a migraine attack that was killing me while we ate a Thai dinner which was her favorite. She was the one who would go to such lengths just to buy me roasted chestnuts when out of season (but Chinatown had it and she intuitively knew) because it was what I was pining for while I was pregnant with Hannah. But before I gave birth, she had left for Canada, a better opportunity for her. We haven’t seen each other for 8 years now.

But though I’m hungering for a friend I can touch and laugh and cry with, I know I have one who is always there and ready to listen. He can be as close as the next heartbeat. He eases my pains; soothes my sorrows; and makes me soar in the inspiration He brings. My friend is Lord and King and He loves me forever. I’m glad I found a friend in Jesus.

Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.

From the song What a Friend We Have in Jesus

If you have been blessed by your visit here, please like Our Healing Moments on Facebook and connect with me there. Thank you!

I might be linking up with these lovely blogs.

Journey with Jesus,

The Virtue of Patience

I am not a naturally patient person. I believe it comes with having a type A personality and being a perfectionist. I can hardly bear mistakes, delays, failures – both my own and others’. I can hardly stand sloooow pace. When I do something, I always try to do it precisely and snappily and expect others to do the same. Confession: I can barely veil my impatience with people of very slow comprehension or hard understanding. Sometimes, I put my impatience into words (may the Lord forgive me and help me in this :( ).

(image source)

I’ve been doing my best to be patient. It’s a constant in my daily prayers. Meaning, I’m not there yet. I get impatient with my husband, kids, and maids. But,

Love is patient, love is kind. (1 Cor. 13:4 NIV)

(Sigh).

I started with this book The Love Dare and the first day dares the reader to be patient, to not say a single negative thing to his/her spouse. I had been seeing this book whenever I visited christianbook.com or Amazon to browse for books to buy, but I never got interested. That is, until we watched the movie Fireproof. I was inspired by it and after more than a month of delaying, I requested my husband to buy me a copy at a local Bible bookstore. Good thing they have available stock.

Reading the first chapter, I was reminded again that love is patient. Well, we know this too well, don’t we? We memorized it, but to me, it seems that it has become less powerful than my temper. The problem with Christians who struggle with patience (like me) is that – we don’t commit to practicing it assiduously. We tend to react in the heat of the moment and even though, for a fleeting second, the Bible’s Love Chapter flashes in our minds with the hope to divert us from our momentary provocation – we ignore it. We even reason out deep in our minds that we are entitled to be impatient at that very moment because —- the other simply rubs us the wrong way!

I am guilty on all counts, but I think the The Love Dare book is affecting me in a good way. Yes, I am taking the dare seriously with hopes that it can do wonders to my day-to-day relationship with my husband, and bring a lasting bliss in the long run.

Before I began the dare, I was thinking it would be easy since from the day we moved to our newly-remodelled bedroom, my husband and I have been very close night and day. We were like honeymooners. We were spontaneously reviving the fervor of our love to each other – talking and being intimate.

But came the first day of the dare and I found myself like I was perilously balancing my composure on a thin line. I began preparations for my baking. I had mixed my lemon juice with the milk to make buttermilk. It was early in the afternoon, my ingredients were complete, but just before the words left my lips to tell the maid to preheat the oven, my husband texted me from the office asking me if I had P700 to pay for the gas which was yet to be delivered. I looked up at our maid and quietly asked, “You mean we don’t have gas right now? That we can’t heat the oven?”

“No, ma’am. I already advised sir Felix this morning,” Lei answered. I like her personality and service, so after telling her that she should have told me before we started, I held my tongue. Patience.

I texted back my husband to tell him I will ask someone to encash in the bank (just outside our village’s gate) to pay the gas delivery. He then texted me that he was going to call for delivery to which I answered, “ASAP!!!”

After many minutes had passed, he texted again telling me to look for the phonebook which was placed on the round table and look for this gas delivery and call and… And, and, and! I was sure I was going to lose my patience! Imagine the delay, while my ingredients sat there waiting? Why did he wait for about a quarter of an hour before telling me that there was no gas to be delivered unless I call them? I felt impatient (uh-oh!) as I turned the pages of the phonebook looking for the gas delivery number. I was tempted to text back my husband and tell him my complaints, but the dare was at my back taunting me. I did not text him.

One by one, I turned the pages of the phonebook (no, it’s not alphabetical). Patience. Patience. It was like a chant as I fought the urge to shut it close altogether. Got the number, called up, and waited patiently for delivery. I didn’t expect the refreshing feeling not giving in to my temper brought!

But it didn’t end there. Later, when I was trying to transfer my freshly-baked cinnamon coffeecake bread into the platter, I asked my husband to help me but he couldn’t quite unentangle himself from his new Sony Experia. “I can’t believe you can just sit there so engrossed in your gadget…”, I stopped, shook my head like one who was defeated and murmured, “I’m sorry.”

It’s never easy to be patient in the midst of challenging circumstances. But if we really want change to happen in our lives, we need to seriously commit. This morning when I woke up, this verse was in my mind. I thank the Lord for strengthening my resolve to practice patience.

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:37-39, emphasis added)

I might be linking up with these lovely blogs.

Journey with Jesus,

Beyond Romance

It’s after dinner and we’re in our room resting (after we stayed for a while in the living room listening to Hannah practice her piano piece). Hannah has kissed us goodnight and gone upstairs in her own room. Tim has been sleeping with us ever since his nanny left almost a year ago. He sleeps in a cot at the foot of our bed, but sometimes he sleeps with his Ate Hannah. He hasn’t been utilizing his own room upstairs except to nap in the afternoons.

Tonight, he wants to eat one of the chicken adobo rolls that I baked. While he is relishing the savory bun, I tell him to let his dad taste it, too, so he gives him the other half. And the comments start to come.

“The bread tastes good but you’re right, it needs sauce,” he starts.

“Oops! There is a ginger!” He notices.

“It’s an adobo, of course there’s ginger,” I answer.

“Oh-uh! There is a bone!” He complains as he fishes out for the culprit, a tiny piece of chicken bone.

This was exactly what I was thinking of when I told one of our maids who assisted me to make sure that there is no bone left in the meat as she flaked it. I didn’t want to hear complaints. Even a tiny bit. For me it is a big sacrifice to bake or cook considering that I do it against hard breathing, dizziness, and exhaustion. By the time I finished kneading the dough and started to wrap the meat one by one, I was too exhausted to check if a piece of bone was left amongst the meat! I just wanted the work to be finished so I could take my rest.

My husband knows my condition so well. It’s just frustrating that instead of him appreciating whatever food I produce through my pained efforts, he heaps up negative comments and … I just feel discouraged. So disappointed and discouraged that I bury my face in my hands and sob. I think about the story of Julia Child before she became a culinary guru, how her future husband had endured the dish she cooked for him and remained in his seat and finished his dinner like a gentleman and never uttered a complaint or criticism. The same story I read about Ree Drummond and her future husband who was gentleman enough to eat the food she cooked (which turned out to be a disaster) and never left the table nor expressed disgust. I think about all these and I can feel the self-pity and resentment mounting. But then, I remember also that comparisons N.E.V.E.R. do any good.

He leaves the room. Maybe he doesn’t want the issue to get worse. He is like that. He never wants to engage in a lengthy argument.

I easily get exhausted, and when I am exhausted, I easily get frustrated or disappointed or discouraged. But I always find solace in the Lord, thinking about Him, talking to Him.

I know he will be gone for a long time so I tell Tim to sleep beside me for a while. I just want to rest my tired body and sad heart. Tim sleeps beside me and the warmth of his body comforts my cold places. And I slowly fall to a peaceful slumber.

The opening of the door wakens me from my semi-conscious state but I don’t open my eyes. My husband gently lifts Tim in his arms and transfers him into his cot, then he settles in bed beside me. He comes so close behind me and hugs me very tight. His way of expressing he is sorry he hurt my feelings and made me cry. We stay that way for a few moments, then I need to go to the bathroom and need his assistance.

He stands up and dutifully carries me to the bathroom (for I still cannot walk the short distance :( ). He does it with devotion, like a love that had been committed just for this cause, this vow, more than a decade ago. I know. I just know. He is faithful and dependable like that. In sickness and in health, he never left.

For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh. (Mat. 19:5)

He cleaved to me no matter how hard the trials had been.

The Apostle Paul, in explaining about marriage, after he echoes the Lord’s words, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”, he proceeds to say, “This is a great mystery…” (Eph. 5:31-32).

And remains a mystery to me, too, for there are times that I have to grope for my love – where I should place it, whether I want to give it or withhold it, or what if I lack it, or worse, do I even have enough to get through every marital woe? I often and fervently pray for my love to expand and cover all hurts and mistakes and ugliness. And then practice it. But the craving and striving could sometimes become wearying.

 Maybe what Dietrich Bonhoeffer had written is really true?

“It is not your love that sustains the marriage,
but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love.”
― Dietrich BonhoefferLetters and Papers from Prison

I feel it is true. For when I cannot grope for my love in the dark, the vow, the marriage, the commandment, the obedience to God are what holds it all together. To honor the vow, the commandment, is to honor God. We work hard on the marriage, therefore, ultimately to honor God.

He replenishes our love.

And here’s a photo of my freshly-baked chicken adobo rolls:

My gratitude list ~ the things I’m thankful to the Lord for. Continuing to count His blessings:

56. Painful divine pinches that remind this soul to walk perfectly before God, constantly leaning on His strength, wisdom and grace.

57. Singed fingers by hot glue stick – just a simple sign of a love that is willing to serve.

58. the people that assist us

59. His leading and help for me to be able to finally complete my first ebook.

60. the door that He mercifully and faithfully opens so that this soul will be liberated from whatever is holding it captive.

I might be linking up with these lovely blogs.

Journey with Jesus,