Thankfulness

Since we can’t go away for vacations even during long holidays, my husband and I treated our kids to Walt Disney’s Holiday on Ice show at the Araneta Coliseum the Saturday after Christmas. My husband chose the location which was nearer the ice rink but it also meant pricier tickets. But we wanted to make the kids happy, so it didn’t really matter. Just to see them so excited about the show brought gladness to our hearts.

Late in the afternoon when they returned, I was anticipating them to be bursting with excitement and stories of their date with Walt Disney characters. But I was surprised to see them gloomy and sulky and not speaking a word. When I asked why, Hannah said that their Dad did not allow them to buy souvenirs. Oh. She said Tim wanted the light wand but Dad said there was no way he was buying it (P700 plus ~ $20). “Oh, yes, I wouldn’t have allowed that, either,” I said.

When their Dad came into the room, he murmured what ungrateful kids they were, shaking his head in disappointment. I was very disappointed, too. And sad. I just murmured for my husband to hear, “We’ll need to explain it to them. This is a serious matter and must be handled properly.”

Hannah quietly left the room while Tim continued to sulk, expressing his discontent by saying things like, “I’ll just give away all my toys because Daddy didn’t buy me the light wand.” And so it went.

As I pondered on this thing, I knew how far our old life in the province was compared to the life our kids were having now. When we were kids, life was hard. And even though our father worked in Guam, USA, life in our small town was generally simple, without the modern-day comforts. We were always grateful for what we received and enjoyed every moment of every treat that we were given, like a trip to the beach, for they were few and far between.

Yes, the life our children are exposed to now is far different from what my husband and I had. They are two different worlds. And I understood that we couldn’t force our kids to live that life which they hadn’t known. But we never wanted to rear our kids as spoiled brats, either.

In the early evening after I had rested, I called for them. I gently but firmly told them to bring their own plastic chairs and sit in front of me for we were going to talk about something very important. They were quiet now and subdued. In fact, they were no longer sulking. I began to tell them about the King who wore a sparkling robe and a crown that was bedecked with priceless jewels and who sat on a magnificent throne in heaven. And this King chose to come to earth, become a baby and be born in a manger.

“Do you know what a manger is?” I looked at Tim.

“It’s a — crib?” He answered, smiling.

“Yes, but this one is not made of brass and not lined with soft beddings like your comfortable flannel. A manger is actually a feeding trough where barn animals like cows, carabaos, horses, and sheep eat. And because these animals eat grass, what do you find in the manger?”

“Grass,” Tim answered quietly.

“Yes, and that also served as the bedding for the baby King, our Savior Jesus Christ. His mother Mary wrapped Him in swaddling cloths. They didn’t even have cute baby clothes or pampers.” I then demonstrated to them what a swaddling cloth was and how to use it. It’s just a long piece of cloth.

“Why did the Lord Jesus choose to be born that way  – prickly manger for a bed in a barn where animal dung and noise could disturb Him – and not in a very comfortable house or hotel?”

“To teach us to be humble,” Hannah answered.

“Yes. And to teach us that material things don’t really matter but love. He wanted to show His great love for us.”

I then proceeded to tell them about the things we enjoy: our big house, their rooms and comfortable beds, their clothes, the cars, the food on the table, their toys, their Mom and Dad who love and care for them. I reminded them how blessed they are, even going to shows like Walt Disney’s, while there are many children around the world who don’t even have food to eat.

I looked at two pairs of eyes becoming bigger and rounder. The two had become so quiet and listening intently, taking in my every word. My voice began to crack as I continued to tell them about the importance of being thankful with all their hearts in everything.

“Dad and Mom treated you to a wonderful show but when you got home, all you did was —“

“— complain.” Tim butted in. Hannah and I burst out laughing. Tim, chastened, sounded like a grown-up.

But before I was finished, I could see how sorry they were. We closed in prayer, with bowed heads and raised arms, expressing our deep gratitude to the Lord for all His goodness and blessings. After the Amen, they both hugged me tightly and told me how thankful they were for everything.

 In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thess. 5:18)

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A Movable Peace

I know how painfully hard it is to live with an unquiet mind. When my illness set in in late-2003, it came with a great fearfulness. I call it borderline nervous breakdown. It ran on and off for years and it was utterly insidious. We would go to the riverside park near our home where Hannah and her Dad would be running or playing in the open space, the green grass underneath their feet and the blue vastness over them were testimonies of a beautiful world. But I was crippled by a different reality: my mind was gripped by an unexplained fear and it had taken over my whole being. It followed me wherever. It was very present. Peace of mind was my most sought-after thing, but it proved to be the most elusive. It was nonexistent.

But that’s taking it to the extreme. I had long been totally healed by the Lord from that crippling affliction. What I want to talk about is how to grasp peace and bask in it in our daily lives, being mentally and emotionally sound as we are. My natural tendency is to talk a lot: explain a lot, tell stories a lot, or express my opinions a lot. Sometimes, give a lengthy sermon to my tween daughter or to the maids. But I myself is deafened by my own words and by the din of my own voice. At times, wearied by them.

I have begun a practice that is helping me to relish peace wherever I am and whatever the situation is. It’s rather easy. I practice to be silent. I choose to be silent no matter how difficult the circumstances are. And in my silence, I luxuriate in the peace I have within.

In mid-2004, just a few months after my husband and I received salvation, we were traveling to the nearby province to attend a wedding (I could travel short distances then). A sister in Christ and an elder was traveling with us. She and my husband were gaily talking about people in church. At times they would burst out laughing. I didn’t want to be a part of it. I was silent in my seat as I thought about apostle Paul’s admonitions. Foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints (Eph. 5:3-4, rearranged).

I looked out the window of the car and took pleasure in gazing at the verdant fields. Peace abode within me and it was like a piece of heaven. It traveled with me. I had a movable peace.

Even in the face of great excitement, something inside of me, like a still small voice, pulls me inward and stops me from losing myself in the frenzy. When I do succeed to keep silent amid the ruckus, inner peace strengthens and gladdens me. Mary on the barn floor always comes to mind.

After an angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds in the field in the cold of night, they hasted to Bethlehem to see the baby Jesus. So, they gathered around the manger and saw with their own eyes and they went about telling everyone about the child Jesus. And all those who heard marvelled. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. (See Luke 2).

In the midst of the flurry of the birth of the Savior, Mary remained quiet and kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. She had a quiet spirit. And underneath that quiet facade was an inner strength that wasn’t easily shaken. Yes, even when the angel Gabriel appeared before her to bring her the news that she would conceive and give birth to a son, while she was still a virgin and betrothed to Joseph.

Maintaining a gentle and quiet spirit in any circumstances brings a sturdy inner calm. This is bred by keeping our spirit in an uninterrupted communion with the Spirit of God. The verse below was my very powerful weapon during those days of utter fear and restlessness. It has become my practice ever since.

You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You. (Is. 26:3)

Sometimes, we cannot find peace even if we are in a quiet place because we carry a restless mind. By cultivating a quiet spirit, peace will find its seat inside of us so that wherever we go, it moves with us.

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(Photo courtesy of my good friend Perla Frisberg of Malmo, Sweden, and edited at picmonkey.com).

I might be linking up with these lovely blogs.

Journey with Jesus,