The Joy of God’s Calling

My husband showed me videos from his Facebook newsfeed of beloved workers in church who wrangle the rough-flowing rivers with their motorcycles going to a people on the mountains to preach the Gospel. These volunteers are not full-time workers but fathers who also hold day jobs: ambulance driver, security guard, fireman, etc. During their off days and weekends, they gather like a small army with their motorcycles and Bibles after which they will then make their long and arduous trek to the mountains of Sta. Inez to hold a Bible Study amongst the communities there.

This was just a very quick dabble to clean up the remaining paints on one of my porcelain palettes that's been sitting on my desk gathering dust.

This was just a very quick dabble to clean up the remaining paints on one of my porcelain palettes that’s been sitting on my desk gathering dust.

To be able to reach the place, they would have to cross seven rivers. When they have reached the top, they are rewarded with the cool mountain breeze, an invigorating welcome after their gruelling journey. Clouds hang low and wrap themselves around the mountain peaks, the mist hover in front of them and seem to whisper its approval and blow a kiss. As if that wasn’t reward enough, the anticipation of families – men, women, child, and the elderly – lining up in the gathering place, beaming with joy and thanksgiving, eager for the banquet that awaits them, a feast on the Word of God.

The joy of God’s calling! It lifts off the burden of life’s travails; it wipes away other desires that may serve oneself and not the living God. It is the antidote to all self-serving dreams and appetites. To find one’s way on this path is the beginning of the fulfilment of one’s purpose on earth. To be able to yield and place oneself snugly into God’s divine purpose without any trace of fear (and even if there is fear, to face it with courage and boldness that only comes from God), uncertainty, and resistance is to find one’s happy and satisfying place, which no other place could offer, like a key finding the lock made for it.

Many Christians (me included) struggle to live a fully satisfying, fulfilling life, looking here and there, to the left and to the right, for that life where you don’t get to envy or covet others’ lives. When we haven’t fully embraced God’s calling and purpose for us, we tend to look at how others live their lives and we then  compare. In fact, it is this practice of comparing that makes us to not fully see and grasp God’s plan for us. We dream dreams and desire things, mostly influenced by what we see around us and in the world at large. We set out and chase them purposefully. But we continue looking and comparing and coveting, never coming to that place of deep satisfaction and gratitude.

Until we seek and find and embrace God’s plan for our lives, we will continue to grope. We will continue to struggle to live a fruitful life, one that shines and reflects the glory and beauty of God.

I myself have been in and out of those kinds of struggles. But after my husband showed me the videos of the brothers fording the rivers of Sta. Inez, I found the answer to my wandering, groping heart and mind.

The Apostle Paul had found it and lived it until the day he died. And many Christians after him lived it, too, desiring a better, that is, a heavenly country, waiting for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

And what is this life?

It is to live is Christ.

For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Phil. 1:21)

This is all we need to know to be able to settle in life and live everyday.

To live is Christ.

To live following the life the Lord Jesus Christ lived. To walk as He walked. To think as He thought (“We have the mind of Christ”). To minister as He ministered. To love as He loved. To obey the Father as He obeyed. To live according to the Father’s plan and purpose for us as He lived His life according to God’s plan and purpose for Him.

To be meek and lowly. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Mat. 11:29). The meekness and gentleness of Christ (2 Cor. 10:1). Thesaurus lists down synonyms of meek and lowly and I picked a few:

submissive, serene, gentle, unassuming, forbearing, humble, long-suffering, modest, patient, peaceful, unpretentious, yielding

To live with power and authority as a child of God. That is, power over all the power of the enemy.

Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. (Luke 10:19)

To live single-mindedly, doing the work of God.

Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. (John 4:34)

But Jesus answered them, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.” (John 5:17)

This is not an impossible task, for the Lord promised power and victory in faith.

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. (John 14:12)

Our hearts and minds are divided because we straddle the kingdom of God and the world, one foot on each, and in the deed, we feel discontented, unhappy, and unfulfilled.

…the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. (Mark 4:19)

Though we bear fruit here and there, it’s not abundant. In fact, more often than not, there is a lack. Or worse, a barrenness.

“To live is Christ” doesn’t mean it’s all a blissful life. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It’s living contrary to the world’s teachings and practices. It’s a narrow road. There are trials and tribulations. But it would be a fruitful life. Fruitful in love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. And when we live under the roof of all these, the reign of the Holy Spirit, there is no more lack, nor envy, nor coveting. Only a fulfilling life, knowing that we are at the very heart of God’s will and purpose for us.

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Learning to Live the Life We’ve Been Given

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


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

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

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

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

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

I marvel each time at how different our lives are.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Life Hidden with Christ

A few weeks ago, I was chatting with a fellow Christian artist friend. She knows the physical difficulties I am going through (in fact, she gave me an emu balm she bought during her trip to New Zealand to help soothe my atrophying legs) and she also shared her own health problems (although I could sense that she was trying to downplay her own health challenges because she knows how hard I’m suffering). At the end of our exchange through Viber, she expressed her faith in our Lord Jesus healing us both, and I replied that yes, He will keep us and protect us under the shadow of His wings. For I felt then that, we, as mothers who long to be strong and live long on the earth, need the Lord’s all-encompassing protection and keeping.

hidden with Christ

I was feeling frustrated while painting something for my blog theme, for I felt exhausted after even just half an hour working. But my Lord comforted me, whispering to my heart that it’s okay, that I need not rush things and I need not produce perfect. Just something to bring Him joy.

When I am sick, weak, and fearful, all I want to be is under the shadow of God’s wings. I want to hide myself in that safe place from everything that’s making my life hard until it all comes to pass. Sometimes, that means I am invisible to the world, too, and that’s fine with me. Being hidden, obscured from the world’s prying eyes, is a definition of safe and peaceful for me. For the more than 13 years of illness, I’m used to my quiet life at home.

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me!
For my soul trusts in You;
And in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge,
Until these calamities have passed by. (Ps. 57:1)

When life is looking up bright and some measure of wellness is mine to hold, I venture out into the world, albeit virtually through social media. I would share photos of our family and our simple celebrations. I would share my art and words to encourage. I also like the connection I have, especially in Facebook, with loved ones and friends old and new, far and near.

My motive for sharing our life in photos and words through Facebook is to let others know that despite my health situation, we are doing fine by the grace of God. That there is real joy and peace in our hearts despite the trials, and there is always a reason to celebrate and thank the Lord. Whenever I arise from the ash heap of sickness and suffering, I post a photo of myself (in a pretty blouse and maxi skirt and with a light makeup) as a testimony of God’s enduring mercy and to send a message to the world: “Hey, the Lord keeps me alive!” I want God to be glorified in that regard.

But sometimes, I can overdo it. Sometimes, the inner motive becomes something like, “Hey, people! We are doing fine, far better than you think. We are not left behind. We are not pitiful. See? We’re having a party. The husband and the kids went to this place and that place, etc. etc.” It is then that the motive is tinged with pride and comparison.

Sad to say, social media is not all connection, but also a breeding ground for comparison. And competition.

With great dismay, I have examined my heart and found out that not all my motives in posting on social media are pure. They are tainted, in one way or another, with pride and the desire to be admired. It is terrible, I know, but that is the human heart if we don’t search it every now and then and let the Holy Spirit guide it even in the smallest matters, like posting on social media.

I’m not sure if this is true for you, too, but I think that there is this tendency of the human nature to flaunt to the world that one’s life is beautiful, even if only on social media. If a life is “true and through” good and beautiful in the Lord Jesus Christ, then go ahead and testify it to the world, for God’s glory and honor and for the edification of others. Nothing more, nothing less. Never to make others feel envious, or less-than, or miserable. And even if that isn’t our purpose, we may still end up affecting others in a negative way if we are not careful.

Our lives in the Lord should edify and not bring others down. Edification is defined as the instruction or improvement of a person morally or intellectually*.

So, when I felt that connection in Facebook has turned to comparison and realized that my life was overwhelmed with envy and that I wasn’t growing spiritually but rather shrinking inwardly, I slowly retreated to the quiet of my solitude.

In the past, I used to think that my life in obscurity is something to be ashamed of. I don’t want people feeling sorry for me and our family. I don’t want them thinking that we’re not normal. So, when I saw the opportunity through Facebook to let others know we’re thriving in spite of, I grabbed that.

But now, the Lord is teaching me that the hidden life, the unknown, obscure life we live for Him is not something to be ashamed of. Life still happens, very much throbbing with events, both miraculous and mundane, even if the world doesn’t see. Even though it’s hidden from the world’s stage, life’s every moment still matters, every season full of purpose and meaning, when lived at the center of God’s will and love. We have only one audience. God. There is only one we need to please to the uttermost. God.

Many people including myself, want approval. But there is only one approval we need to seek. God’s.

The days I was putting up this blogpost, I reached Judges 13 in my Bible reading. Manoah seemed so in awe of the message of the angel regarding the birth of their son Samson that he blurted out, “What is your name, that when your words come to pass we may honor you?” But the angel of the Lord was quick to reply: his name is secret. He wanted to remain anonymous. He wouldn’t receive honor from men, only God’s esteem.

Like the angel of the Lord, may we not seek to be honored and applauded. May we always seek to bring glory and honor to God and not to ourselves.

Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. (Col. 3:2-4)

*From the online dictionary.

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God’s Beautiful Presence

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

God's beautiful presence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll sing Your praises forever

Deeper in love with You

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

I’ve found where I belong.*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Journey with Jesus,

Stay with Jesus

What makes you sad? I know there can be many things that make us sad (laughs), but that kind of sad like when we were kids and we got sick we needed to stay home for days, unable to play with our friends. We might have looked out the window of our room and watched them play exuberantly. Then we turned away from it, sighing deeply, sadness mirrored in our eyes. It is one thing to be sick, and an entirely different thing to be unable to do the things we’d love to do and go to places we’d love to see.


For many years now, I have been unable to travel, near or far. Before I became ill in 2003, I loved to travel, here and abroad. On holidays, I always had a travel plan set in place. I loved vacationing with family, road tripping, and staying in hotels and resorts. Around the third quarter of 2003, I planned a Christmas holiday in Australia with Hannah and Felix. Around this time, I had been planning to reconcile with my husband after more than 2 years of separation. I thought that going away and spending time together with our daughter would make the reconciliation more meaningful and memorable and last a lifetime. But in October of that year, I fell seriously ill.

While I spent months in bed, sick and uncertain of my future, being unable to travel was farthest from my mind. I only wanted to make things right with God, receive my healing, and go back to my work.

But healing and recovery haven’t come fully until now. And my career was gone 12 years ago. For years, I had to struggle to make peace with that fact. But one thing is certain: I found my life in the Lord Jesus Christ. I identified with the apostle Paul’s words:

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him…  that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Phil. 3:8-11 ESV, italics mine).

I found myself in Jesus, and through the years, I have come to know Him and walk with Him intimately. I have learned a whole mountain of lessons that will last me for eternity. I learned to be content and at peace in Him. For many years as I waited for healing, my life revolved around my Savior (praise and worship, prayers, the Word, witnessing to loved ones, Church, crusades) and my home and family. Though I was sick and weak, the Lord supplied me with enduring peace and joy. I was grateful for even the smallest blessings.

Then, social media entered my life. Through it, the world opened up to me again and I saw what other people in the planet did and I was reminded of my old life (the trips and holidays part). My peace was shaken and the wall of contentment which I built around me cracked as I began to desire things outside of my little world. Deep desires that were hard to overcome found a place in my heart and since then, I had to struggle against comparison and envy. Longing for things other than God – a European tour, a US tour, trip to Disneyland for the kids, holidays at the beach – began to grow within me. And while I gave time and space for these thoughts and dreams to play in my mind, the deeper the claws of longing dug. By God’s immense blessings, we have the financial means, but my frail health hinders any plans of family travel (except for my husband’s business trips every now and then).

It was as if I was that child down with the flu once again and looking out the window, feeling sad that I couldn’t play outside with my friends.

So I looked for ways to banish the desires and dreams (for the more I dwelt in them, the more I became sad and dissatisfied). I only mention them in my prayers as attached to my supplication for healing. But I know that they are not hidden from God no matter how I try to suppress them. My heart and soul are ever open to Him.

I often think that if we lived on top of a mountain where there were no Joneses, cell sites, and wifi, I would be happy and contended with what I have and with what I can do no matter how meager they are. That’s the funny thing (or maybe a painful reality!).

When we have someone to compare with, life is altered. Something shifts within us (and it’s not always for the better).

And now that Christmas season is here once again, I know that neighbors, friends (on social media who are the only ones I see), Church brethren, families of our kids’ classmates, will be moving from one place to another as they spend the holidays somewhere else. Like birds migrating, this “ritual” of people with means and health can’t be stopped. For myself, I can curb the craving and absorb the sadness of not being able to leave home, by God’s grace. But the kids. I would love for them to have a meaningful Christmas and memorable holidays.

That’s why I’m focusing my eyes on the Lord Jesus steadfastly: The King of kings who chose to enter the world through the womb of a simple virgin, in a manger inside a cold and damp barn in a little town, and be wrapped in swaddling cloth. His very first visitors were poor, unknown shepherds, but nevertheless, they were invited by an angel and guided by a bright, shining star.

Except for a brief story when He was 12 years old, nothing more is recorded of Jesus’ growing up years. But we learn that He became a carpenter, a humble occupation. There are no recorded family vacations, whether grand or modest. And when He at last showed Himself to the world at age 30, He “went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people” (Mat. 9:35). He went about His Father’s business, doing only what mattered eternally.

As this post was forming in my heart, I was drawn to Matthew 11:29, this time, seeing it in a different light:

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. (Mat. 11:29)

The Lord wants us to learn of Him (that has been the silent message of His humble birth!). He’s been trying to drive home to this materialistic, selfish world that He is meek and lowly in heart – no foolish pride, arrogance, or superfluity. It is only when we have learned of Him – to be meek and lowly in heart ourselves – that we can find rest for our souls!

This Christmas season, whether we are able or unable to go places, may we remember to behold Jesus’ life and example of simplicity, of doing the Father’s will, and living for the Kingdom. This will extinguish all comparison trap, envy, and discontent.

Like a horse wearing blinders so that it will only follow the path where its master leads, may we look unto Jesus and not to the world. 

May we experience to the full what the shepherds experienced that night, listening to the angel’s good tidings of great joy and following the star to our Savior.

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On Weeding Out and Being Content

On a Saturday evening, we gather around my mobile table and begin to work on Tim’s school project, actually a whole family activity as the rule requires. This is the third year that we’re making it, each year a different theme. In the previous two, Tim had complained that our work hadn’t been featured. Hannah explained that those submissions which made it to the “Featured” board and earned house points were really done seriously, as in embellished to the max. This year, I’m inspired enough to make Tim’s project stand out.

His assigned holiday is All Saints Day. So, we sit down to work: Felix my husband applying glue, I arrange the moss over it, Tim endlessly chattering away. Hannah has done the hand-lettering earlier so she left. There is much work to be done and although I am enjoying it, I am also aware that I’m not supposed to exhaust myself. Already, I can feel my stiff back beginning to ache and feel heavy. Felix is cutting small strips of double-sided tape as I paste numerous pumpkins, Jack-O-lanterns, vines, and Casper-like ghosts, all of which Tim (except one vine which I drew for his model) has drawn and cut earlier, when he asks, “So, when is this project due?”

My lips twitch into a smile which I try to suppress as I give him the date, exactly three weeks away. I am fully expecting to hear his comment dripping with light sarcasm. And off it goes. “So, we’re working now like there’s no other day.” He shakes his head and adds, “And I thought it’s due on Monday.”

I burst into giggles. “I want to have a head start as I have other things to do like drawing a spider web and arranging cotton for cobwebs, etc.”

“Since submission is still ages away, just prop this project up in the garage to gather cobwebs, real ones, and you’ll be sure to win.” He throws back his head and laughs. Leave it to my husband to deliver powerful punches like that which throw me in stitches as well. I join him and realize how the Lord shifts our circumstances and brings us joy between the cracks, the breaks from illness and suffering. If we are willing to be all there in the life God has given us and  embrace each moment with gratitude, whether blissful or hard, we will begin to have some semblance of a contented life.

This is a far cry from my Christmas and New Year and the months that followed when the cruel claws of sickness and suffering tightened their grip on me and brought me to the throes of death not only once. On New Year’s Eve, life and death wrestled hard against each other and I was sure that death would finally triumph. But just when I helplessly yielded my body to it — breath, precious breath of life! — flowed unobstructed. I was surprised and didn’t know what to make of it. Then I heard a voice in my mind, speaking and reassuring with authority, “Breathe! Just breathe! Inhale, exhale. Breathe in freely the abundant supply of air!” There was no oxygen source, just an electric fan blowing hard on my face, but I knew that the breath came from the Source of Life Himself. The ever-merciful God breathed on me and I recovered from that. Hallelujah!

Now, life finds me held securely in the Savior’s hand as He walks me through this season of life. He whispers, in the midst of my struggles as I look at others’ healthy lives, that I should stop looking out and start looking in, wielding all of me to be at the very heart of the life He has given me. But I want to say this, hopefully this one last time: when you go in and out of physical suffering through your days, when you don’t see the magnificent colors of sunrise as they paint the early-morning sky, and you see others waking up to glorious health and happiness, to think even fleetingly the difference between you and them, the blessedness and favor you believe are heaped up on them — THIS. IS. JUST. SO. HARD. TO. SWALLOW. You close your eyes and will the painful thought to vanish and whisper to yourself, “It is not true that I am not loved and favored.”

Yes, I may have all the reasons in the world to feel envious of others living healthy, happy lives, but the Savior is patiently making me see that there is absolutely no benefit in that. On the contrary, it will only sap any joy I hold. Looking at others’ lives and comparing ours with them is an exercise in futility. The Holy Spirit whispers that happiness will not spring from it but only when we focus on our own lives, on the relationships He’s given us — our own marriages, families, and homes — and nurture them with all ferociousness.

Although I know that focusing on our own could sometimes be depressing, especially when there is lingering sickness and suffering, truth is, it is all we’ve got, and whether we like it or not, we have to live it. Yes, pray for it, nurture it, plan for it, dream big for it, grow it, adorn it, light it up. Celebrate it! Make it beautiful in the sight of God for His kingdom and glory. Yes, make this one life, this marriage, this family, this home matter now and eternally.

The more we compare, the more we see the lack or flaws in our lives and the people in them and the more we become dissatisfied. If we keep this practice, we may become too critical of the people in our lives, creating friction or even damaging relationships and forfeiting our own happiness.

If we observe closely, we do not envy others because their lives are perfect. We envy them because they are happy with their lot. Forgive me for saying this, but we may not even admire their choice of spouses or we may observe their children as too bratty, lazy, or a little rebellious. But we are amazed to observe that they are genuinely happy. They sincerely like their spouses, whatever shape, size, color they are packaged in or whatever educational attainment they have. They are grateful; they are contented. I believe that is what we envy.

But the more we bathe our lives with gratefulness, the more discontentment and unhappiness are pushed aside until there’s no more room for them.

It’s okay to harbor deep longings for a better life, maybe one that is free from sickness and suffering. It’s okay to let the hot tears cascade down as we mull over the things our souls are ardently desiring. These don’t make our lives ugly, they make them real. But let not these longings drive us to envy or jealousy, but rather, to the throne of grace.

Our lives and our families are the vineyards of the Lord and, therefore, need our diligent nurturing. These — envy, jealousy, comparison, self-pity, bitterness, discontent — are the weeds that choke their otherwise healthy growth. They make our inner lives ugly. Once and for all, seriously weed out all vestiges of them. Until they are completely rooted out, we will remain unhappy and miserable. Do ourselves a favor: Let’s walk in the Savior’s light and love and never fall into the devil’s trap.

Sow for yourselves righteousness;
Reap in mercy;
Break up your fallow ground,
For it is time to seek the Lord,
Till He comes and rains righteousness on you. (Hos. 10:12)

(Photo credit: Perla Frisberg).

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I’m for the Relationship

There can be a myriad things that can chip away at our relationship with God. When we are exposed to different trials and tribulations, our relationship with Him can also be at stake. It is what I have experienced. Of a truth, there had been seasons in my life (including now) that I had lived in constant war with the things – both internal and external – that tried to rip me away from my otherwise blissful relationship with God.

(image from Google)

Maybe I have been excruciatingly living a harder life than most people (but I’m sure there are others out there that are having it worse) because of the burden brought by my illness and constant suffering. (I’m telling you this so you’ll know where I’m coming from).

I believe the Lord Jesus and I have forged a strong relationship through the years of my suffering. I have known and experienced how to make Him my all in all. That is why it feels more intensely painful when He doesn’t seem to want to deliver me from my suffering. I feel like His hand is heavy upon me while He heaps His favors on others. It seems like He throws His severity my way while He has only blessings for them.

The suffering, the weariness, the stark hardship – these all seem to dry me up and wear away my intimacy with the Savior. I look at other people who always seem to be enjoying life to the full and it would be hard then to dislodge the feelings of envy and jealousy no matter how I earnestly try. There’s also the constant watching and fending off of bitterness that tries to cast a shadow in my heart, defiling me. While others seem to have a perpetual fabulous vacation, I slump on the bed barely whispering, “I’m hurt, Lord.” Hurt, not because my body is, but because life seems unfair.

At this point, you must be thinking I have only grievances to tell. But no. I have the following treasures which I’m delighted to share with you. What must we do when resentments and bitterness, or even estrangement from the Lord, threaten to wreck our relationship with Him? These are what I do:

Persistent in Prayers

When the constant communion with God goes, our relationship with Him will greatly suffer. Even in our desert (and the more so, if we come to think of it), we must pray for our souls’ revival, our hearts’ refreshing, and our minds’ renewal. Even when we don’t know what to pray for because of weariness and sighing, we pray, whatever the Holy Spirit whispers. We cry out for help, even though we have been doing nothing but that for the last many months. When all else fails and quits, let prayers remain. 

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. (Phil. 4:6)

In everything by prayer… (Magnify that many times).

Be Willing to “Die” to Self

I have come to realize that the root of the feelings of envy, jealousy, comparison, competition, discontent, bitterness and such, is one’s resistance to die to oneself and to the world. But if we are willing to offer our lives to God in true and complete surrender, not minding the cost, the sacrifice, the pain – then, we will become unaffected by our surroundings. For how can a “dead man” still feel the taunts and temptations of the devil? But when we lose our lives for God’s sake, we will certainly find it in Him. We’ll just have to trust.

24 Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. (John 12:24)

So, when we see people who seem to be “blessed beyond measure”, we just utter a prayer, “My life is in You, Lord, now and for all eternity. What could be better than that? I am Yours, You are mine and I will rest in that truth.”

Profess Your Love

With the Spirit’s stirrings, connect with Jesus moment by moment. Let our hearts be lifted to Him and our minds be ever aware of Him. Instead of sighing, mutter, “I love You, Lord. Thank You for my salvation.” Now, I have learned to punctuate every bout of suffering with a profession of my love. Instead of analyzing my situation and falling prey to self-pity and resentment, I pronounce with my whole heart, “I love You so much my dearest Lord Jesus!” If you can only say a single, short prayer, make it that.

Quench not the Spirit. (1 Thess. 5:19)

Instead of focusing on others and how we can have what they’re having, stalk God. Stalk Him, hound Him on all sides and shower Him with our heartfelt “I love You’s”. Let our love be more fervent that anyone else’s, especially those who profess yet don’t do the will of God. We shan’t be beaten by them! Don’t believe the devil’s lies that God doesn’t love us. He doesn’t simply love us, He does it with an everlasting love.

Yes, Lord, I’m for my relationship with You, in spite of all the trials.

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Journey with Jesus,