Held

My Christmas holidays were quiet, beautiful, and if I may say, holy. Holy if we consider being held and nestled in love and warmth a sacred thing. But then I believe in the sheltering and sanctifying power of marriage, that process of two flesh becoming one. No, not in the physical sense only, but in doing life together.

Please excuse my messy illustration, but I have a surprise for you at the bottom of the post - my latest completed serious painting project.

Please excuse my messy illustration, but I have a surprise for you at the bottom of the post – my latest completed serious painting project.

So, the holidays were simple and quiet for us. There were no grand vacation plans as I still could not leave the house. I had assumed that the husband and kids would like to go out, actually, insist to go out and have some fun. But I was wrong. They didn’t have plans at all! Hannah was busy with rehearsals for our church’s Christmas concert (she played the piano in the Youth Choir special numbers); Tim was contented enough to play with his friends in the neighborhood (except when I sent him and his daddy for some errands, including visiting the Grand Canal at McKinley Hill); and the husband was happy enough to spend time with me.

I had wanted so much for Felix and I to spend hours together everyday when the office was closed and he did’t have to leave for work. Without me having to pressure him to do so, he did indeed sit with me, lounge with me, nap with me, that kind of languid togetherness when he lifts my feet onto his lap, or when he shifts his body to invite me to snuggle in the groove of his arm and chest, that space that had been chiseled out by years of marriage life. You easily slide into that place, like soft jelly flowing into its mold.

The days were restful and did good to our bodies, minds, and spirits. It also fed the marriage with fresh fodder to make it richer, deeper, fuller.

I have been thinking that perhaps that’s exactly what the Lord Jesus desires for us: to spend long, quiet, restful times with Him. We see His heart regarding this matter when He visited the home of sisters Martha and Mary.

Mary sat at His feet contentedly drinking up all His words like a thirsty fawn, completely oblivious of Martha’s solo ministrations with dinner. Martha eventually voiced out her complaints to the Lord, but He gently rebuked her and pointed out to her what’s really needful and good.

And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: 42 but one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. (Luke 10:41-42)

Poor Martha! She just wanted to serve good dinner to their very important guests. But that is a challenge for all of us. Oftentimes, we choose poorly. We don’t seem to know how to wisely sift through the many tasks at hand and recognize that one needful thing and choose that good part. No wonder we feel weak and scattered sometimes. 

My illness and suffering steal so much from me. Because I have to stop and lie down for an hour or more to recover my strength (and breathing) many times a day, I don’t accomplish much. When I’m in that “recovery period”, I usually want to browse my social media feeds. My reason is that, I don’t want to “feel in full” the hardship I’m going through. I want to forget about it, hence, I browse and browse. I would prefer to read or pray or paint, but the problematic breathing, etc., wouldn’t allow concentration.

I hate it when I endlessly and aimlessly browse. I hate it that my life is spent that way. I am a person who wants to live a rich, productive life, nothing wasted. So I coax myself to just keep still in bed with my comfy day blanket and try to imagine that I’m snuggling in the loving arms of my Lord Jesus Christ. That’s hard to do, especially when I’m struggling to gain good breathing.

I also set my HDTV so I could listen to healing scriptures with relaxing music or an hour of praise and worship. I can only do that when my breathing has improved and I’m only waiting for strength to be able to stir. When I’m hyperventilating or when my breathing is not smooth because my digestive system works doubly hard, I cannot listen to music then or any words. I just want complete silence, a space where all my concentration is focused on breathing intentionally. The only rhythm that my heart and breathing can move in during those times is the word hallelujah uttered silently in my mind. Every single, important breath breathes in and out hallelujah.

When I listen to praise music, I think on the Lord Jesus. I strive to know Him deeper then, or know Him again and again. It would be best if I could sing in worship and enter the circle of His light and presence, but I can’t. So, I do my best to spend time with Him in the embrace of lyrics and melody as I listen. Sometimes, He brings me enough bodily comfort that I feel slumbrous. At other times, He stirs up my heart and tears flow.

During those times, I want to believe that I am being held. 

…I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. (John 10:28)

Do you find it hard to sit still at Jesus’ feet and listen? To spend unhurried time with Him and just let Him love on you, whisper words of wisdom to you? Do you secretly enjoy more endlessly browsing your newsfeeds and watching videos that entertain you? I hope not. I pray that the Lord will give us wisdom and discerning spirit to choose that which is needful and good. And be held in the process.

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Hope for the New Year

Hello, dear ones! I trust that you had a wonderful and blessed celebration of our Savior’s birth with family and friends. Our family was so blessed to have a quiet Christmas at home. I was strong and inspired enough to plan and do a few last-minute decorations and table settings with the help of the kids and our two househelps. Did you feel like our to-do lists are way bigger than our capacities and time allotments? I did but didn’t dwell too much on it. There were things that were not done on time but it didn’t really matter. To be a slave of tasks and time is one thing I can’t subject my frail self to.

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So, the cold Christmas season has brought fresh perspective and inspiration to my heart and soul as I await the coming year (a big “thank you” to all who leave me messages of love, hope, and kindness that really encourage me). Yes, my heart is filled with abundant hope, even amid my existing health situation. The Lord is faithful to let our hearts and hopes go on and on and on. He is the One who walks with us and sees us through every season. Even when we are weak and don’t seem to know how to fire up our faith, He remains faithful all throughout. Hallelujah!

I am so inspired to meet the new year with plans for more of the things that would bring purpose and meaning to my life. No, not more tasks that I wouldn’t be able to complete anyway, but more motivation, more determination, more focus, more purpose, more intentionality, more dedication, more heart, more discipline, more courage. <Exhale>. That is humongous, but you know what? Before Christmas, I found enough courage to let myself into projects that, though they might tire my body, will bring more life, more vibrancy into my ailing and weak self. What I’m saying is that, I don’t want my illnesses and sufferings and fears to be sovereign over my life. I want God to be.

This coming year, by God’s unceasing grace, I would like to focus more on the ff.:

More Purposeful (More Living)

I had written a while back about living just a fraction of a normal life, what with sickness, suffering, and a fraction of a person’s normal strength. My days are dotted with long pauses (rests) to recover from hard bouts of suffering. Often they stretch to an hour or two, a few times a day. Sometimes, I don’t have appetite or determination left to rise up at all and do something productive. At other times, I just want to defy them (the difficulties) and rise up even if I haven’t fully recovered and do something fulfilling, like watercolor painting.

I realized that’s exactly the problem: I’m not consistent. Sometimes, I muster enough courage to stand up against the nasty bullying of my sickness and suffering, sometimes I give in piteously and accomplish nothing.

Now, I’m inspired enough to plan my days and pursue that which will bring color and fulfilment to my days and life with determination. I’m praying that I will be able to follow it through.

More Fruitful

Our fruitfulness is what we can show for our salvation. It’s what the Lord requires.

By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. (John 15:8)

You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit shouldremain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. (John 15:16)

It can’t be that we are followers of Christ and yet, there are no fruits of it in our lives that others may see. We may soak ourselves in prayer and the Word everyday, we may attend church religiously, but if change is not seen on the outside, what good is it? Our internal transformation should flow over the surface. The way we live life (our motives, words and actions) are the fruits of our faith and love for Jesus.

Just the peace and joy we have inside and are etched on our faces and seen in our eyes is already a solid proof, the fruit of living by and walking in the Spirit. They are infectious and affect others.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. (Gal. 5:22-23)

So, for me, more of joy, thankfulness, patience, grace and kindness for 2018 and beyond. Grace is love beyond self, shown in choosing humility over pride and forgiving readily.

It’s growing in grace (see 2 Pet. 3:18). When we grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, we bear much fruit. There can’t be bearing without first growing.

More brave

I never imagined that fear and courage could exist at the same place and at the same time. My illness and suffering brings me indescribable fear that I will never get used to. The attacks scare me so much that sometimes I tremble inside in utter fear of how in the world I could come through each one alive. But it is the same illness and suffering that has made me so brave and courageous to fully trust in God in the midst of it all. I myself marvel at how I could be so brave through it all, for it’s a pure, unwavering trust – naked and raw.

To trust God with nothing but our faith, His Word and His testimonies to hold onto is scary. We can’t see or touch anything. Everything is invisible. But that is faith.

I am not brave outside of my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. He is my brave, my courage, my strength. So, if I want to be more brave, I need more of Jesus in my life. More of Him, His Word, His teachings and promises. You see, my physical sufferings have brought trauma in my life. It is this trauma that makes me afraid to step out of my comfort zone.

When the disciples were scared because of the winds and waves that buffeted their boat while the Lord slept soundly, He said to them, “Where is your faith?”

He’s saying that, if we have complete faith in God, we should not be afraid. (I wish I could tell my heart and nerves that when suffering attacks, or when I’m anxious or worried).

I pray for more vibrant life and purpose, more fruitfulness in the Spirit, and more courage to step out in faith for all of us this new year.

Sharing with you some of our Christmas photos:

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Christmas in My Heart

My thoughts and feelings days before Christmas are a rhythm of struggles, hard prayers and deep ponderings  on the meaning of all these things we do during this season, and also a flurry of birthday celebrations at home. There is this sadness that hovers over my soul that I can’t quite understand where it’s coming from. Maybe it’s a blend of all the unanswered prayers and unfulfilled dreams that I’m nursing in my heart. Whatever it is, I trudge through the days before Christmas meditatively. I listen to praise and I find that there’s a need to lock my eyes and mind on the lyrics for them to sink in and reach deep into that space where there’s a need for sanctification and revival.

Practice drawing from two years ago.

Practice painting from two years ago.

I cannot decide whether to be fully joyful because ’tis the season or to be part sad and part celebratory. The primary feeling is like trudging through thick mud and every step is heavy and hard. I know that while most people around the world are in the thick (and thrill!) of Christmas preparations, there are also those who do not know how to live through it without feeling unhappy, depressed, exhausted, and envious and coveting (realities of life!)

But this thing I affirmed to the Lord: I still have hope, faith, and a prayer. And I begged for help, help in every area that I need it. Help in thinking and feeling right, for starters.

I realized that there is great internal conflict when we believe we are ready to move on – from trials and miseries, sickness and suffering – and start afresh and live healed and free, but God is not. When we have had enough of the hardships and self-pity and living less than the life promised by the Lord, and yet, that fervently-prayed-for dream stays out of reach – it is a burden that is hard to bear.

It becomes a struggle between not relinquishing faith and hope and giving in to defeat. It is a hard and bitter struggle.

Have faith in God. This reminder from the Lord Jesus sometimes dangles over the skirmishes between fear and faith, weakness and strength. And though I am counting 14 years behind me that I have had unwavering faith and relentless prayers for my healing, I still ask it to this day and as fervently, if not more.

Maybe there is a need to not count the years or months that we have not been answered. Maybe it would be better if we stopped counting the years of unanswered prayers and instead, count the years that God saw us through. Maybe the Apostle Paul’s advice to forget those things which are behind [our old life] and reaching forward to those things which are ahead can also be applied to the things in the past where we had been tried and tested again and again.

Yes, and to believe that everyday is a new opportunity to renew our faith and to approach the throne of grace and mercy with confidence. That every day can be a day of new beginnings and fresh starts and for that long-awaited miracle.

That is what Christmas brings us: a new hope, a new believing. The tidings of great joy and peace and goodwill to all men that should not lose their promise and power and fulfilment. It is the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ after all (or the remembrance of it).

What we need this Christmas (and all the days of the year for that matter) is not more of our desires and the world. We need more of Christ – His presence. His powerful presence that can transform us. We don’t know it yet, but maybe in our transformation or re-transformation, we can find our healing.

Maybe we have focused so much more on ourselves and our needs (I know I have) than on our devotion to Him. Maybe our adoration of Him has been watered down by the trials we’ve had to go through. But everyday (and not only on Christmas) is an opportunity to deepen our devotion to Him, to make our service to Him real and rich.

A WONDERFULLY BLESSED, CHRIST-FILLED CHRISTMAS TO ALL!

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A Beggar But Not Beggarly

On the early morning after we celebrated my son Tim’s 10th birthday the night before, I found myself begging before God as at other times. Only this time, my silent cries seemed to resound from my corner of this earth to the splendors of heaven. And although the past days I wanted to be still and quiet as I waited on Him, this time, I couldn’t be thwarted in my begging over and over.

This is an image I got from Google. There was no time to paint the theme because my Tim birthdayed).

This is an image I got from Google. There was no time to paint the theme because my Tim birthdayed).

If I will live and remain here (which is my primary prayer), there must be another – and much better – way to live than spending most hours of everyday in bed and feeling unwell and weak and suffering. There must be an escape from the fears brought about by one’s sickness, inadequacy, and incapacity. Fears that show themselves as nervousness, anxiety and panic attacks that drive the heart to beating so fast and the breathing haywire. (This happens when I get worried about a loved one’s safety or the like).

There must be a deliverance from this kind of harsh suffering.

And there must be a doorway through which the bright sunshine of tomorrow can pass in all its radiance. When kids go away for a time for leadership camps or when they represent the school in global leadership conferences in another country – there must be joy and rejoicing and celebrations of victory, and not a whirlwind of fears and worries of how on earth a sick mother would be able to handle it all?

Or how would the same mother stanch the desire of being able to go away at last with family this Christmas season? How would she block the thoughts that come unbidden, of evergreens and cozy lodges away in the mountains and the incandescent faces of family, for at last they have gone away, especially that of the kid who has lived a decade on earth and still has not experienced a family getaway with his beloved mom with them?

How can a mother just steel her heart and not feel or think or dream of any of those things?

<Whisper> Dreaming for me has become a painful thing.

So I beg. I beg for a miracle. I beg for healing. I beg to be released. I beg to be raised up. I beg to be enabled.

I am a beggar before God. This is the best position I can take in my situation.

Aren’t we all beggars before Him in one way or another? Haven’t we all been Bartimaeus at one time or another? Or the Canaanite woman? Or Jairus?

And behold, there came a man named Jairus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue. And he fell down at Jesus’ feet and begged Him to come to his house, 42 for he had an only daughter about twelve years of age, and she was dying… (Luke 8:41-42, emphasis mine)

Aren’t we beggars all?

I ache to understand this: Why, after the Lord Jesus promised, that when we seek, we shall find; when we knock, the door will be opened to us; when we ask, it will be given to us – the thing that is most sought after is not found, the door is not opening, and the thing most fervently asked is not received?

I ache to know the answer to this: Why, after the Lord Jesus promised that If [we] can believe, all things are possible to him who believes – that one very important thing we are believing in is not becoming possible?

So, we cry and continue to cry, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

We are beggars before God in prayer but not beggarly. For we are heirs of eternal life. And whether now or then we might receive answers to our deepest prayers, the Lord Jesus Christ should be enough. And He will give us peace and joy for the journey.

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Run to the Well

I open my Bible to Psalm 145 after a whole-day Sunday worship service. There shouldn’t have been a need for it considering that I’ve just been to church, but all day, and all week for that matter, I had waited for a touch or inspiration from the Lord, but until this Sunday afternoon, I remain – untouched, uninspired. All day as I watched the live streaming of our church’s worship service alone in the bedroom, I felt like I was barely getting by. I couldn’t immerse my whole heart and mind into it. Maybe it’s because of my back and abdomen that were making me breathe through the mouth. Or maybe I’ve just become…dry.

Run to the Well

So, here I am with my journaling Bible opened to Psalm 145 with my glittery pens and colorful highlighters. I’m running to the well. I am going to glean bits of fallen barley stalks. I may not be like those harvesters that gather the barley in armloads, but I can be Ruth who picks up after them, what they have left behind. It feels like that for me. Gleaning is hard work and at the end of the day, we only have as much barley as a rectangle of cloth can accommodate. But Ruth went for it day after day, and she and Naomi never got hungry.

Sometimes we feel that God is distant (or maybe it’s the other way around?). I have been begging Him to enable me to travel. I have a renewed desire to pursue this petition relentlessly. I believe that traveling would definitely bring a fresh change into my life. But that isn’t happening.

I couldn’t feel Him through Sunday worship and I think that another prayer (with me not really into it) won’t make a difference. There is a need to run to the well.

If we are thirsty, we need only to draw near the well and drink.

I begin to read Psalm 145 and I marvel at David’s outpouring of praise and worship. It’s like a shimmering rain of gold dust from heaven itself. I am not feeling what David was feeling. But I forge on. I am journeying through God’s truth.

I know what Psalm 145 says.

The Lord is gracious and full of compassion,
Slow to anger and great in mercy.

I have often put these words beside what I experience everyday and there has been a gnawing, painful question in my heart of the difference between these words and my daily experience of sickness and suffering and not being able to walk, do things, and travel. 

I ponder on the Shepherd and what the Bible tells about Him: Going through all the villages and healing all manners of sickness and disease. And there is something I definitely do not understand.

And maybe this has put a distance between me and the Lord Jesus in my heart. Still, I do my best to follow Him closely and love Him fervently.

I read and reread Psalm 145. I write my gleanings beside it. I even make them elaborate by putting them in boxes and drawing flowers around.

The Lord is gracious and full of compassion,
Slow to anger and great in mercy.
The Lord is good to all,
And His tender mercies are over all His works.

You open Your hand
And satisfy the desire of every living thing.

He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him.

(Selections from Ps. 145).

Nothing amazing happens. But I close my Bible with a somewhat satisfied heart. I continue to sit in quiet like Mary at the feet of Jesus. So, I continue to wait. Two mornings later, He leads me to Ephesians 3.

that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Eph. 3:16-19, emphasis added)

There is a need to grow my roots deeper. To drink more often from the Well.

But can I ever begin to comprehend the boundless love of Christ? I believe that it would take eternity to do so? I sure would like to know the love of Christ translated into comfort and peace and warmth and joy in my heart; translated into health and healing and rest in my body.

I sure would like to know this love that passes knowledge translated into dreams and prayers turning into reality and testimony.

So, I keep quiet and wait. I wait for Him at the well: here in His Word. Even when I reenter the flurry of daily life, I will be waiting for the Lord’s touch and movement in my life.

To wait with an expectant and restful heart is blessing enough.

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Stop, Look, Listen

Before I said my prayers one night, after a day full of hardships as was the usual flow of my life, I realized that God’s favor may not be upon me. That should be it, what else could be the reason why I am not getting fully well, I am not being freed from suffering, and my fervent prayers for healing are not answered? In the morning, I would pray fervently, full of faith, for a miraculously healing. But just after breakfast, I would be gasping for breath like a fish out of water. My prayers for healing are clearly not answered. But I haven’t been really facing that fact because I thought that if I did, it meant that I was losing faith in God. And I know that without faith, it is impossible to please Him.

"Pockets of Quiet Places"

“Pockets of Quiet Places”

But that night, I needed to face the glaring truth: God’s favor is not upon my life as far as my healing is concerned. I receive answers to my other prayers: healing of family members, their protection, their success, their special petitions. But when it comes to my own personal petition, there seems to be a standoff. A 14-year standoff. For years I’ve been imploring the Lord to bring fresh change to my life, but He isn’t budging an inch. In the meantime, years pass and my life goes on: daily sickness and suffering, unable to travel even short distances. I’m always left behind. I have to plod through all the difficulties and challenges of my situation in each and everyday.

That night, I wanted to stop what I am doing: crowding God with relentless, importunate prayers, affirmations, declarations of faith, and the endlessly looking for His gifts tucked in everyday (so that I will always have a  reason to be grateful for). These are all good things, but I thought that I needed to stop the striving, the wrestling (Jacob’s kind), the advancing, the pounding and bombarding, the relentless fighting, the always-positive-always-powerful-always-full-of-faith stance.

I just wanted to stop and be still and know that He is God.

I wanted to experience Him even without my striving.

When I suddenly decide to keep silent, would I be changing God’s plan? I mean, when I decide to be still for a day, no striving in prayer, no nothing (but a heightened looking and listening for God’s movement), would God’s plan for the day come crashing down?

I realized that maybe I have been drowning God’s voice and movement because of my incessant begging.

That night, I had the desire to lie low and let God do what He desires to do. I want to just be quiet where I am and wait for Him, if He’s coming and what He’s going to do. I want to observe closely in a day how He will move in my life and would I be able to perceive it? I want to stop prattling about His “blessings” on my life that I don’t really see or not that big or great but still thankful for because I should always be thankful. I should always be thanking, honoring, glorifying Him. There’s nothing wrong with that, except that it’s kind of forced sometimes, especially when I don’t see change in my sick and suffering life.

What if I cease doing all that and wait for Him to move in my life? To see if He will, to prove that He is looking and listening all this time?

To stop, be still, look, and listen. It is like asking. “Are You there, God?”

The following day, I still prayed and read my Bible, but I didn’t pound on heaven’s door; I didn’t try to pry God’s arm from His bosom to do what I needed Him to do for me. What I did, I watched. And waited.

I watched for His coming. I watched if He would manifest Himself to me. How? In what ways? I didn’t know. But I hoped that I would know if it was Him.

This reminded me of the prophet Elijah when he ran to the wilderness to escape Jezebel’s wrath.

A great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind;

And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake;

And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.

(From 1 Kings 19)

Thankfully, nothing of this sort happened on that day or the day after just to show God’s presence. But a few days afterwards, when there should have been a good reason to be angry and deeply hurt and an important relationship taking on another blow to the point of breaking, a still small voice whispered:

“Let go of pride. When you let go of it, you won’t have any reason to harbor anger or hurt. You are not supposed to get hurt when life seems not fair or even harsh. You are a child of God, daughter of the King of kings, a citizen of heaven, an heir of eternal life. Though you live here, you don’t belong here. You belong to Me.

“When others hurt you, treats you unkindly or even cruel to you, you don’t have to contend. You don’t have to explain or defend yourself or reason out to prove that you’re right and the other wrong. I know and see everything and I will put things aright.”

I let go of pride (or any likeness of it). I let go of the need or even the right to prove I was right.

When pride is slain, love flows in unobstructed. Love flows in and suddenly, we see clearly. We see the things we cannot see while we are striving. We see the face of love, like the gates of the kingdom of heaven flung open. We see the light shining through, melts all coldness and hardness and hurts.

Love expands and grows within and we see only the face of the Savior, always there loving us, even when we can’t perceive it.

Love shone when I most needed it. God manifested Himself by slaying the pride in my heart so that I would only know love. He manifested Himself by setting me free, not from my sickness and suffering, but from holding on to the right to be proven right.

This meekness and lowliness, things the Lord Jesus wants us to learn from Him, beget more love. Love, a surprise gift from a most unlikely situation. Love begets more love. I received it in full.

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I Wish I Could Tell You

I balance my 9″ x 12″ Saunders Waterford watercolor paper block on my lap (I paint in bed now). I reach out for the masking tape, my eyes and back drooping, heavy from hurt, sadness, and the burden of sickness and suffering. My arms and hands are weak aggravated by the wounds of angry words and accusations. But I want to start to paint because it is an escape. It is a place where I may find acceptance, peace and joy. It is a gift from God and it is mine alone. My world. My friend.

A painting from last year. "Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand." That Queen Anne teacup duo is a gift from an IG teacup seller. The Lord loves and blesses us in many wonderful, delightful ways.

A painting from last year. “Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.” That Queen Anne teacup duo is a gift from an IG teacup seller. The Lord loves and blesses us in many wonderful, delightful ways.

I line the edges of the block with the masking tape, tears pooling in my eyes but don’t spill. It is the soul that weeps. I lift the pencil to draw on the white smooth surface of the paper and I feel it descending upon me, this old acquaintance: self-pity.

I have just recovered from physical difficulties, wrapping myself in my pink flannel blanket as my insides trembled. I am grateful that with the warmth of my blanket and the peace of God that passes understanding, my body recovered (once again as countless times before!) and the angry words inflicted upon my heart and soul were momentarily forgotten.

Earlier, I woke up with the thrilling anticipation of doing something (though not that adventurous) I knew would at least lift up my spirits. I was looking forward to the bright possibilities of the day. My body wasn’t that “good” (my kind of good), but I wanted to subject myself into the thrill. To the hungry soul, every bitter thing sweet.

But it didn’t turn out the way I had hoped.

I wish I could tell you that only love and compassion surround a sick person. I wish I could tell you that in a Christian’s life, there is only fruitfulness in the Spirit, number one of which is love.

I wish I could tell you that only healing words are released towards a suffering one, a hand that blesses with its touch, a look that speaks of love, and thoughts of genuine care.

I wish I could tell you that there is only the kindness of four while they bear their sick friend in a cot to bring to the Healer, eager to scale up the wall, hauling the cot with the sick person in it to reach the roof so that from there, they could dangle their burden in front of the One who could make him well.

I wish I could tell you there is only fervent, sacrificial love among brethren.

I wish I could tell you there’s only this:

Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification [uplifting], that it may impart grace [compassion, goodness, kindness, love] to the hearers.

 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted…

(Selections from Ephesians 4).

But I can’t. For there is also the poor woman who had an issue of blood 12 years and who was alone in her suffering. How sad and silent her world had been! For with her kind of affliction, she was considered unclean. Understandably, she was shunned. She was so alone that no one would even care to walk with her to search for the Healer. She had no one to send to Him and say, “Lord, please come and heal my wife/daughter/sister/friend”. We know that there was no husband or mother or sibling or friend that was mentioned. She was alone. And in her sickness and weakness, she had to crawl and creep behind Him who could end all her miseries.

And you remember also the crippled man who had been in that situation 38 years? He had no one to bring him to the pool when the water was troubled. So he never had the chance to even dip his toes into the water, let alone swim there to be healed.

He had no one who cared. That is, until Jesus.

Do you think that it would be far better if the heart learned to not be hurt by any external stimuli? But how? Unless the heart becomes numb, which is a worse thing. Or maybe when the heart has grown and expanded so wide that it could swallow up any hurts, like scarlet paint spreading through water. But I believe that the heart was made to feel, whether joy or pain. It’s part of being human.

When we find ourselves heartbroken, a song finds its way to our hearts. And so this song finds its way to mine.

Praise His Name

When you’re up against a wall
And your mountain seems so tall
And you realize that life’s not always fair
You can run away and hide
Let the old man decide
Or you can change your circumstances with a prayer

When everything falls apart
Praise His Name
And when you have a broken heart
Just raise your hands and say
Lord, you’re all I need
You’re everything to me
And you’ll take the pain away

When it seems you’re all alone
Praise His Name
When you feel you can’t go on
Just raise your hands and say
Greater is He that is within me
You can praise the hurt away
If you’ll just praise His Name

Ohhh,
You can overcome
By the blood of the lamb
And by the word of your testimony
You’ll see the darkness go
As your faith begins to grow
You’re not alone, so how can you be lonely

When we find ourselves bereft of compassion from others, there is One who is really compassionate to us. The One who gave His all on the cross.

I believe that it is from the sparseness of love that hurts sprout. All kinds of problems arise when there is lack of love. Faults look big when love is small, remember?

But we are never far from love, for if we belong to Christ, we belong to love. When we abide in Him, we abide in love.

And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. (1 John 4:16, emphasis mine)

So abide. He will come to our Bethesdas. Or when He passes by, we could crawl up behind Him to touch even His garment. There is always healing at the end.

Amen and amen!

Here’s the song, the current theme song of my life :) .

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The Blessing of Ordinary Days

On a Sunday evening, I open my prayer journal in a sudden need of connecting amid the heaviness of my heart. All day long, suffering has been unrelenting, making me feel battered and spent. And at the end of the day when dusk settles in, darkness seems to settle in my soul as well. So I write. I write of the gloom and hopelessness that threaten to invade my heart and soul, that make one not to know what to do or how to go on. Or how to keep on living in the light. I end my prayer with:

Please help me. Only You can do something for me.

Still not well and strong enough to paint decently :). Dandelions for my blog theme today.

Still not well and strong enough to paint decently :). Dandelions for my blog theme today.

Sometimes, that is all that we can do. Cry for help.

I close my journal with a heavy sigh and turn towards my husband. I tell him about the state of my heart. The fear of losing hope, of losing joy, of losing the light in my eyes and soul and dwelling in darkness. Tears fall. Tim comes near, he hugs and kisses me. He wants to let me know I am loved and cherished and precious. Felix makes light of the situation but Tim rebukes him, “Dad! Don’t make a joke. This is nothing funny!”

The wisdom of a 10-year old boy!

Of course this is nothing funny. But father and son then team up to strengthen the mother. And this mother re-enters the light. I smile through my tears.

The following morning, Felix leaves for the airport. Cosmetics convention in Bangkok, Thailand. I would have loved him to be with us, it’s the kids’ term break anyway. But work.

I am a worrier. I hate that I am but I can’t help it. I have also other afflictions like nervousness and anxiety and panic attacks. These I acquired with my illness. But I fight them all with tons of prayers. I have prayed weeks before Felix would leave for Bangkok. And on the Monday that he leaves, I submerge myself in prayer. The demons of worry and panic attacks cannot get near.

The blessing of ordinary days (ordinary in that they are not days wrought with wonder or leisure or excitement) is to keep still and trust and rest in the Lord.

It is vacation and most people we know are away having a grand time. But the kids and I are holed up at home, barely exchanging a few words.

Melanie, a sister in Christ whose daughter we send to school, comes to assist us and cook our meals. She brings her 6-year old son. He and Tim play. Tim teaches him simple English words. He gives him his old toy.

The blessing of ordinary days is to see God’s care and love through other people.

In the afternoon, we cook pasta and prepare vegetable salad, then I invite the kids around our small mobile table stationed in our bedroom extension. While we divide portions, scoop sauce, and drizzle parmesan, I tell them about the Lord Jesus Christ and His life of modesty and simplicity. Of how He wants us to learn of Him for He is meek and lowly. This in the atmosphere of our not being able to get away and have a marvellous vacation somewhere.

I tell them that maybe the Lord is teaching us (them, especially) to have humble and grateful hearts. I then ask each one what they know of this: to be humble and grateful. I let them see what we do have and be grateful for every one of them.

The blessing of ordinary days is to remember the Lord’s teachings and learn of Him, of tucking Him and His Word into our hearts so that we continue to grow and be fruitful.

The next day (after recovering from a nasty attack of my illness), I watch this short Christian film. It’s a story about a shepherd boy who is partially crippled. He lives alone with his mother. Though his right shoulder and leg hurt constantly, he needs to go to the hills to pasture the sheep that they don’t even own. One night, he encounters the Lord Jesus Himself but he doesn’t know it’s Him. It’s supposed to be “Christmas”, the night the Savior was born 30 years before. They are in the same hill country where the angel announced glad tidings of great joy to the shepherds working the cold night shift. The boy’s father was one of those shepherds.

They start to talk. The boy shares his water and dinner of bread wrapped in cloth, but not the special cake his mother baked for him. Later on when he realizes that the “stranger” is good and kind, he shares the cake also and apologizes for withholding it at first. The Lord touches the boy’s shoulder, takes his crutch (which the boy willingly gives), and walks into the night. Needless to say, the boy is made whole that same hour. He runs home to his mother.

All this time, tears fall down my cheeks. I am awash with fresh downpour of love.

Sometimes, the heart responds and learns more through love than through sermon. Stories of love based on truth. Stories of God’s amazing love to us through the Lord Jesus Christ. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. 

Herein is love. 

The blessing of ordinary days is to know and receive that love without doubt and questioning. And to love the Lord back just as purely. To love Him even in the hard, in the painful, in the excruciating, without any traces of selfishness or cold-heartedness or silent rage. To look Him in the eye and there’s only tender love and awe and adoration in us.

The blessing of ordinary days is to be able to receive epiphanies, to be able to hear God’s voice and be transformed by it. 

On a Wednesday evening, Felix texts me. Their plane has safely landed in NAIA. I feel so happy and light I could soar! I shout and shout my thanksgiving towards heaven although I’m sure no voice comes out from my lips. I kiss my Bible thinking I’m kissing my Lord and Savior.

The blessing of ordinary days is to be lifted up in this shared love.

Thursday late afternoon, we gather around our dining table. The kids set the table, more sparkling than usual. The side table carries food we ordered especially for this occasion: black seafood paella, lasagna drowning in thick layers of luscious cheese, and red-orange juice.

Before we lift up forks, we lift up our hands and thanksgiving to God. We don’t need special occasion to order food, set the table, and gather around it. When we celebrate God, we can do it any day. Even in ordinary days.

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Faithfulness and Persistence

To the sick and suffering who have been in the same difficult situation for so long a time, these, faith and persistence, could become so shabby, lackluster, that one needs to wipe the dusty surface to have a glimpse of them once again. This could happen when, for years one prays for miraculous healing and it doesn’t come, and instead, there could be more suffering. This doesn’t mean that faithfulness in God is gone for good. No. It’s just that, one’s fervency for that petition so sought for could diminish. Maybe one would still continue praying for it but the “faith that could move mountains” has waned. Importunity (persistence) is also gone.

My painting from last year. I hope you like it.

My painting from last year. I hope you like it.

That is, until one finds oneself in a harder place where there is no other thing to do but find one’s way back to them – faith and persistence – dust them up, polish and let them shine once more. Let them do their work once more.

For you see, even hope could grow faint and wax weak. One could lose one’s tight grip on it and when that happens, one finds oneself despairing once again. To lose hope and courage – it’s scary. But if we revive our faithfulness to God and our persistence in seeking Him and presenting our supplications to Him, there could still be a remnant of strength left in one’s spirit. And with that, hope. For these, faithfulness and hope, they fortify each other. And prayer in faith is the fuel upon which persistence operates.

As I have said, they could become lackluster, especially when, after a very long time of holding onto them, one still has not received answer to a very important prayer. One is still sick and suffering terribly perhaps. But if the going gets tougher and tougher, one knows that these – faith in God and persistence (importunity) – are the only things one can hold onto, that can bring one from this day to the next. That can rekindle hope.

And so, instead of entertaining the budding feelings of discouragement, self-pity, and despair inside (or the temptation to sulk against God), I am brushing up my strong faith in Him and pursuing Him with persistent determination once again.

I am praying this:

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. (Eph. 6:10-11)

I confess, feelings of hopelessness and despair sometimes creep into my heart, but I never – NEVER – let them flourish. However hard sickness and suffering is, I can’t afford to do that. I am a mother. I guess that says it all.

By God’s persistent grace, He revives us every now and then. This is more significant when one finds oneself in the lions’ den or in the fiery furnace heated up seven times than usual.

Do we still have Daniels and Shadrachs, Meshachs, and Abednegos abiding deep within us?

Do we still have that faith to face the hungry lions once again and believe – BELIEVE and TRUST – that God will send His angel once again to stop their mouths from devouring us?

Do we still have that faith that the Lord Jesus Christ will walk with us in the midst of the fire and we will walk out of the furnace without being burned?

Why are lions’s dens and fiery furnaces not shut down for good, like closed down factories which churn out obsolete products?

But we know that they will always be around until kingdom come. But the Word of God will remain. THE. WORD. OF. GOD. WILL. REMAIN!

In the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the Lord Jesus said,

Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. (Mat. 24:35)

And what does His Word say? It is only this:

But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name;
You are Mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you.
For I am the Lord your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior… (Is. 43:1-3)

These are so beautiful promises, but again, I confess: In the thick of sickness and suffering, one may feel like drowning in the deep waters instead of walking on them. One may feel like being melted through the fire.

It is during these times that our faith must not fail. Even for this, we need to ask the Lord Jesus’ help and intercession, remembering His assurance to Apostle Peter as also His assurance to us: “But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail” (see Luke 22:32).

In Luke 11 (KJV Bible), the Lord Jesus tells of a story between two friends and how importunity of the one got him what he wanted from the other. The story was a preface to what the Lord really wanted to say: for us to ask, seek, knock.

To be importunate is to be “overly persistent in request or demand”¹. In the story of the two friends, the one being asked didn’t want to be bothered for he and his family were already abed, but because he was his friend and because of his importunity, he rose and gave what his friend needed.

The Lord Jesus is saying that it is the same with our relationship with Him: we are His friends and He encourages us to importune Him, to ask and beg Him urgently, persistently, even troublesomely.

Sometimes we grow weary, yes, but the Holy Spirit leads us back to God’s Word over and over again and to believe and trust in its mighty power to do that which He intended it for.

“For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven,
And do not return there,
But water the earth,
And make it bring forth and bud,
That it may give seed to the sower
And bread to the eater,
11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” (Is. 55:10-11, emphasis added)

He will send His word and heal (Ps. 107:20). Amen.

¹ Merriam-Webster

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The Lives We Live

I stir in bed. I know it’s nearing noon, I need to rise up, but my body wants to linger a little longer under the warm sheets. I slept at around 4 this morning, all night long my left leg wouldn’t relent. Of all nights! The discomfort in my legs was more intense than usual last night, it felt like it reached to the marrow and it was hard to sleep. The kids left for school without stopping by. Or maybe they did but found me fast asleep at last. I stretch and get ready for my morning devotion, my eyes roaming around the still-dark room (the undrawn drapes block out the sunlight). On my marble painting table sit the two white orchid plants, a huge 50-piece yellow rose bouquet, and a basket of flowers and fruits. They certainly make the room lovely. And although I have not (yet) received the answer to my fervent prayer, looking at the beautiful flowers make me feel blessed.

This was just a very quick dabble as I have been on bedrest for the past 2 days, but I will do better next time. Promise.

This was just a very quick dabble (using up remaining paints on my palette) as I have been on bedrest for the past 2 days, but I will do better next time. Promise.

Yesterday, alone in my room watching the live streaming of our church’s worship service (hubby and the kids attend church; the kids sing in the choir), a courier delivered a pretty basket of fresh flowers (that included dark pink sweet peas) and fruits. While the maid talked to the courier, I was wondering who would be sending a package since I didn’t order anything. When I saw it, then I remembered. The wonder of it all is that, I always manage to forget about these yearly gifts a beautiful and beloved sister in Christ faithfully sends on my birthday for over half a decade now. So, I am always surprised! 😀 And she lives in Kuwait! And we have never met in person.

But she never fails to make me feel loved and blessed no matter how hard I’m going through. Bless her beautiful soul!

Then last night after midnight, Felix left the room and came back carrying two potted blooming white orchids. They are so lovely I almost couldn’t believe they are real. On his second trip to the garage, he came back carrying a huge bouquet of yellow-gold roses.

“Oh, these are so many! What, 36? 48?” I asked, thinking about all the numbers divisible by 12 😀 .

“50, of course!” He answered. Fifty yellow-gold roses for my 50th birthday. Of course!

“Happy birthday, mahal.”

Today, Monday, October 2, is my birthday. Beginning the first day of September, I prayed a special prayer: that I will receive the gift of my healing. But nothing changed, in my life and in my body. Maybe in another day or time, I would have been deeply hurt. Why is the Lord Jesus so quiet in that regard? But not today. Today, I will not dwell on hurts or self-pity or discouragements. Today, I will do my best to celebrate and be happy.

Later in the afternoon when the kids arrived from school, I managed to wash my face and brush my hair for a decent picture-taking. Honestly, I just wanted to sit in front of the camera and let it capture what it could. Let it gather all the stories my face, my body, my head would be telling. I wanted my picture taken to share with friends on FB and IG but I didn’t want to “embellish” a perfectly happy and contented facade I wasn’t feeling or carrying somewhere within me. What I wrote on the caption was this:

Sometimes there are so many things- different stories and themes, reasons and motives, thanksgivings and praise – that one would like to say, but time and space and words may not be adequate, so one would think that it’s better to say nothing at all.

If a picture can tell all the battles won and still fighting
If it can reveal how many walks through the “valley of the shadow of death” there were
Or if it can explain the joy that pierces through like a ray of sunshine slicingthe dark, menacing clouds
If it can express all the melodies and lyrics of a song of praise and thanksgiving ithat have enlivened the soul in spite of
If it can show all at once all the hopes and fears, all the desires, longings and despair, the unwavering faith and sometimes tottering perseverance and courage
Then let it speak and the words need not be written.

But one knows that it cannot.

Screenshot 2017-10-10 16.42.16

My family.

My family.

Screenshot 2017-10-10 16.37.46

I often wonder what my life might be called. A half-life? Thinking that I’m not living on normal health and strength. But even that moniker is not correct. For my strength is not even half the normal. What would a life that operates on a fraction of strength and a slew of indescribable and scary physical hardships that is far removed from the normal order of things be called?

Sometimes it feels like it’s all like a child’s play. The things I strive to do to show the world I am living a wonderful life in spite of – it feels like they are not really real or complete or normal. Like I am an alien  trying to live on earth like any other human does. But I know that mine is entirely different and I feel like an “outsider”. They only see that I am sitting there on a sofa with a smile on my face, sporting a light makeup and wearing new clothes. What they don’t see is the wheelchair that brought me there and how hubby and kids scamper to make me comfortable: electric fan directed towards my face, sandals put on my feet, hair fixed, etc.

Or when I take photos of my “teascape” and share them on IG. They only see the pretty tea set and the inspiring caption, but they don’t see the hands that washed and put them there. The hands that assisted me while I sat and waited. A child’s play.

But my behind-the-scenes role as a wife and a mother is downright real. I pray hard and pound on heaven’s door for my family just like any other healthy Christian mom does. My writing/blogging and watercolor painting life, thank God, is also very real!

I hope that I don’t sound like I’m whining, because honestly I’m not. I’m just trying to share and explain how hard life like mine is. I could use the word “difficult”, but it doesn’t say anything except that it’s difficult. But when I say it’s hard, I may be describing a hard wall, a hard ground, a hard place, a hard situation, a hard hand, a hard deal.

But in the hard, I beg the Lord (just as much as I beg for my healing) for fruitfulness in the Holy Spirit. For what is a life without fruit? In a desolate land, in the wilderness, one could still be fruitful. And maybe even more so. Because in the wilderness, one’s bread is the Word of God. It is the manna that one gathers each day for one’s sustenance and growth.

A fruitful life is the Word of God lived. Each and every day. And that is my light, my encouragement, and my hope.

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