Living Life in the Hard

I settle in the warm, silky water of my tub, my head nestled in its smooth curve that hugs my back. I close my eyes and utter a silent, heartfelt prayer. (I have developed the practice of saying a prayer in my heart and soul whenever gratitude hits me, those moments when I could clearly see the difference between misery and comfort. And even contentment. I am quick to grab those moments and hold them close for just a while until I release them into the air with my gratitude and prayer of thanks).

hard places

With my eyes closed and my flesh caressed by magnolia-scented water laced with lavender salts, I say my thanksgiving to God. My heart overflows. I don’t think about the fact that Felix put me in the tub and scrubbed me with a stiff loofah earlier and that he will come back to rinse me, wrap me in my fluffy robe, then carry me back to the waiting wheelchair (and always with a thump!), and then the half-hour of rest in bed until I could sit up again to apply lotion and change into fresh clothes.

I don’t think about those things, the things that others do for me because I am unable to do them myself. I don’t think about the fact that I can’t walk and go out and many other things that I cannot do, not to mention the physical suffering and difficulties. I just want to dwell in this moment now that I am in this tub and my skin is silky and all is well in my revised definition of well.

For I had known months of not being able to bathe. So, these here are the fringes of bliss. If not heaven itself.

How do you live life in the hard? It’s not always been like this for me for the past more than 13 years of being ill. In the earlier years when one does her best to hold on to the old life of good health and complete strength while facing the stark reality that things may never go back to where they were before, or worse, if it all ends up to an untimely death – it was pure horror. That fear, that uncertainty – they make a body and soul tremble to the core.

Those early years for me could be defined by one word: desperation. When you’re desperate, your desperation will dictate the life you are to live. You don’t even plan it. There’s no time for careful planning. There are only bursts of panic and a kind of faith you will never find in a sunny, rose-strewn pathway. That kind of faith is only birthed in the shadow of the valley of death. A faith that has a life of its own, a living, breathing, moving faith. A faith that can move mountains in its desperation.

In those times, you will not concern yourself with the question on how you live your life, because first, you need to survive. Many a time in my whole ailing life had I struggled only to survive.

Then there were the years of aridness, of being out of desperation but being stuck in painful waiting. When your days are marked by sighing, wishing, longing, waiting. When you still can’t find your way to thanksgiving for the constant heaviness of soul. It is a dry, fruitless land. A tundra.

During my tundra months, even the dandelions were envied. They proliferate the vacant lot beside our house. Even with the cruel intensity of the summer sun, they stand and not a single, tiny petal or leaf shows weakness. They grow, they exist without a care. I had seriously wished I were a dandelion.

When you’re in that barren place of waiting, where uncertainty is the prevailing climate of the land more than great expectations, how you live life is dictated by your surroundings. Faith again plays an important role, but so does hope. Steadfast faith and tenacious hope. Those are your loyal companions, friends that stick closer than a brother.

The year 2015 was that for me (well, one of those years). Faith had me clinging to the powerful promises of the psalms and hope drove me to edit photos everyday with a chosen verse from a psalm and shared them on FB. One hundred and fifty psalms in one hundred fifty days. That’s almost covered half of the year, the same amount of time of living in faith and hope and not knowing the other offerings of life, like enjoyment and happiness and dreaming. In fact, I had stopped writing on my blog during those months. I only posted on IG, photos of my tea or the pastry I was able to eat, with a huge pink hibiscus in the background plucked from our garden. Or a book I was trying to read. Or my Tim – from school, sleeping beside me, eating, smiling.

Those photos I shared were but snippets of life. But still, they were signs of life. Of faith. Of hope.

The hibiscus tree with those huge pink flowers was directly in my line of vision when I looked out of the French doors through the patio to the garden beyond. When physical weakness and discomforts and sadness and the desolation of waiting uncertainly tried to steal my hope and semblance of peace, I looked at the hibiscus tree boasting of pink flowers the size of a plate. I always found hope in it. The flowers opening wide and smiling to the world were a sign of life for me.

Just as I had found hope at that piece of blue between the roofs many years ago, when I had sat in our garage all day and bemoaned my hapless state. Praying and waiting for healing had felt like digging on hard concrete and barely making a scratch. I had looked at that piece of blue wedged between our garage roof and that of the neighbor’s, a very bright cerulean in the mid-afternoon sun, and hope had come rushing back with a fresh vigor.

As long as I can see that piece of blue up there, where my Savior and Healer lives, where all life flows — I will believe! I will have hope!

I had stared up at that framed blue sky and repeated those affirmations before I was wheeled back to my room to rest.

In the hard, you live your life as the circumstances present themselves, but always with faith and hope. Faith and hope are the threads that hold everything together. When both are lost, everything unravels. When everything unravels, it would be like trying to hold water in your fists.

Felix wheels me back to our bedroom and I cocoon myself in my thick bathrobe as I settle in bed to rest after my bath. A glimpse of the elusive good life flashes in front of me and I get it: living life in the hard is intentionally pursuing and doing the God things and collecting all the gifts, big and small, special or ordinary, neat or messy, because they all add up at the end of the day.

wisteria wall

“Wisteria” walls of our bedroom.

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What Makes Life Beautiful?

Because of social media, people can now show off their lives for all the world to see and admire. But a life that is seen through the screen is just a small facet of the whole. The life lived behind it, hidden from the world’s hungry eyes, is what essentially matters. If we live our moments just so we can brag them to the world is not really living. The thing that I’m learning now is to live for my sake and the ones I love, and not for the sake of the world. That is not selfish at all if you will allow me to elucidate. Because of the pull of social media, we have learned to make little decisions that are based not on our own needs and their importance in our lives, but because we think that they will impress the world. 

beautiful life

We can easily see that when, instead of letting the hungry husband dive into the sumptuous dinner before us, for example, he’ll still have to wait because we are going to take pictures first (for IG perhaps!) before the nice arrangement is messed up. Instead of sitting quietly down to dinner, thank the Lord for the good food and ask Him to bless it, then share it with the ones we love gathered around, our thoughts and actions are centered on sharing it first to the world. We make these little decisions for the sake of the world and not for us.

Now, if we fail to show our moments to the world before they come to pass, we feel like there’s something lacking in our lives. But, this shouldn’t be the case. Our lives should be lived to satisfy us and not the world through its “likes and comments”.

Is life beautiful because a photo shared is scooping up “likes” by the hundreds or even thousands? Is that the gauge?

I’m learning, dear readers, I’m learning!

What makes life beautiful? Is it what people see on the outside? Or is it essentially the life on the inside, the one that cannot be seen? The one that is sturdily connected to its Creator and Sustainer and Savior? The one that is whole and full and complete enough in its God it doesn’t need glorying in “likes”? The one that doesn’t need to show off because it is happy and contented in itself?

I am learning hard, yes, on how to live this one life in contentment in God and not in the world. Sometimes, we think that striving to make our lives beautiful for others to admire and emulate is the way to happiness, but I believe that we need to create first a place in our inmost being that is authentically contented, happy, and grateful before it can even be called beautiful. Our lives should deeply satisfy us first before it can attempt to satisfy others. They should be loved, cherished, and made happy first before they can even be useful to others.

I used to think that adorning and surrounding my life with beautiful things – scented candles, pretty English teacups, flowers arranged in a crystal vase, lovely and comfortable bedroom with walls and covers in perfect harmony (you get the picture) – will somehow cover the want in other areas, such as the lack of health and the absence of travel because of it. These things could temporarily bring comfort and joy and even peace, but in no way can they reach that place in the heart and soul where true and enduring happiness and contentment reside, if in the very first place they aren’t there. The true state of the heart, mind, and soul will determine whether the life that they support is beautiful or wanting.

I have to ask this because it is my life right now: Is there beauty at all in suffering? All kinds of suffering for that matter? I believe there is if it brings us to a closer, more intimate walk with our Savior. If it drives us to pursue holiness that is not superficial. Suffering, if seen in the right perspective, is sanctifying. If our suffering ends in our sanctification, then suffering has served its purpose. Now, don’t go gawking at that word: holiness. The truth is, we are called to it. We are called to be saints (Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:2). We are called to pursue holiness.

Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord. (Heb. 12:14)

A holy life is one that worships God in spirit and in truth, both in the most private place of our lives and in the congregation with other believers.

Shouldn’t a life be established in peace and joy and confidence first in the Lord Jesus Christ before it could even be called beautiful? Shouldn’t a beautiful life begin with a happy and satisfied heart in God first and a spirit that praises and thanks God with its all before it can even be seen and admired by others?

For what is a life if it wallows in its inability to be happy and content in its God who makes all things possible for it? What is a life if it endlessly whines for the lack and cannot see the blessings all around it and rejoice in them and thank God for every single one? What is a life if it cannot see the good?

First, a life must see God, both in the tangible and intangible. Both in the fruit (that we see) and in faith. In the gifts and rewards and in hopes and dreams. A life that sees God in suffering and in victory. In woe and in awe. In fear and in peace. In joy and sadness. A beautiful life is able to balance these and still flourish. And rejoices in the Lord.

A life is beautiful from the inside out when it is drenched in love on both sides: the Lord Jesus’ unfailing, faithful love and our steadfast, growing one. I believe the secret is being truly loving from the depths of our souls. Such love should be reflected in our relationships.

What makes a life beautiful even with all its trials and struggles and suffering? It is that radiance that’s a reflection of God’s glory. It is never easy, I know. For often our lives reflect the suffering or the want. But we need to ask this: Is it about us? Isn’t it about Him working in and through us for His joy, renown, honor and glory? For His kingdom? And yet, it’s also about us as far as He is concerned: the ones He’s known and loved and chosen in Him before the foundation of the world (see Eph. 1:4), the blessed recipients of His mercy and grace. For didn’t He give His life to give us ours?

And the life that He gave – it is beautiful.

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He Fills Us to Overflowing

I lay in bed with the singing and laughter still ringing in my head. When our family of four celebrates, it is loud. Not that we play music on a CD player or whatever, but we tell stories and jokes and speak all at the same time! We like pranking each other, whether child or adult, it doesn’t really matter. We cherish those moments when we gather together to enjoy food and each other’s company. We are used to celebrating on our own, no guests, and it’s really not a lack.

CHRISTMAS BUNDT CAKE. My original watercolor painting on 9" x 12" wc paper. (Reference photo by Natalios via IG).

CHRISTMAS BUNDT CAKE. My original watercolor painting on 9″ x 12″ wc paper. (Reference photo by Natalios via IG).

So, as I settled in bed after quite a long night celebrating my husband’s birthday, I only had praises and thanksgiving to God. These thoughts floated on my mind: He fills us to overflowing! Surely, He has filled us up tonight with good things and more than what we deserve.

For those who have not been tried and who have not experienced the pains and bitterness of life, such celebrations and rejoicing are taken for granted. But not for me and my family. We had known how to have nothing but fear and uncertainty and utter sadness when my sickness and suffering prevented us from celebrating. Or even eating a meal together. In our family, these words are more than a verse in the Bible, but a first-hand experience.

 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. (Phil. 4:12)

A villainous voice speaks to my mind, asking how I could possibly say that He fills us to overflowing when everyday, I still go through such difficulties brought by my illness. I still suffer.

But that night that we were drenched with singing and laughter and love, I could only see the goodness of God. I couldn’t focus on the daily hardship I experience, I only saw that our family was happy, period, and wanted to let God know I so appreciated it.

Every morsel of joy I could pick up from under the table, I will thank the Lord from the depths of my heart and soul.

How could I not say my heart overflows when I can eat all the food I want? For there were long seasons when I could only eat a few spoonfuls of runny rice porridge with clear beef broth. Felix savored the beef ribs I baked and ate only them. The Japanese cheesecake (our first-time!), though diminutive, virtually melted in my mouth. The gift I gave to the birthday man, he liked it a lot and he used it right away (I tell you, he’s quite finicky when it comes to his manly things). And the photos we took (there were numerous!) had been kind to me: they didn’t show telltale signs of my illness and suffering, or the warts, or any signs of aging like dark spots.

It’s not really about vanity. It’s about looking and feeling good in the midst of continued illness and hardships. It’s a blessing to look radiant despite the harassment of illness. And I believe it’s all because of Him.

Those who look to him are radiant,
    and their faces shall never be ashamed. (Ps. 34:5 ESV)

Just a few days before my husband’s birthday, I was swiping away tears of sadness. For the longest time, I have desired to be able to travel by land and by air. But it’s not happening. If I’d be downright honest, I get terribly envious when I see friends traveling from place to place. And I can’t even go around our neighborhood. Not spitefully envious. Just pitifully envious. Or sometimes, trying-to-be-indifferent envious.

It was a weekend and Felix and I were in the patio talking. I just received a Viber message from my new artist-friend that she and the whole family were going to New Zealand for the holiday season. New Zealand. You have no idea what those two words mean to me.

Most people dream of traveling to America or Europe. I do, too. But when the kids ask me (which they do every now and then) where I want to go when I’m already well, I often answer, “New Zealand.” Personally, I don’t want to imagine going along with throngs of tourists snaking in and out of famous tourist spots around the world, swarming around a famous edifice or monument or museum. I want to go where the crowd doesn’t choose to go.

Like the countryside of New Zealand, where sheep graze quietly on a rolling meadow that just goes on and on to the horizon. I want to experience the quiet atmosphere of a remote B&B accommodations nestled at the foot of a mountain where there is an unobstructed view of fields and fields of flowers. I will set up my travel brushes and palette and just paint the day away. Then visit quaint shops where they sell artisanal whatever that you can never find in malls.

Whisper: I have a private board on Pinterest labeled, “New Zealand” where I collect all my NZ pins, scenes I want to visit and paint. Someday.

Then my good friend told me she’s going there, not for a few days, but the whole holiday season. I messaged back to remind her to bring her travel brushes and paints and told her that I hoped she would find time to paint. The things I had wanted to do. Then tears started to fall, silently at first. But when Felix asked, I couldn’t help but sob. A little.

There are deep longings in a woman’s heart that one cannot seem to reach and soothe. But surely, there is nothing that the Lord Jesus cannot do something about.

These unmet longings, they can either drive us to be bitter or to be more faithful to God and intentionally see what He is doing in our lives and to be genuinely grateful for it.

It is only when we refuse to focus on the things that He is not doing, and instead gather all the crumbs that fall and are there for the picking, that we can fill up ourselves and not be hungry. Ruth gleaned the few stalks of barley the harvesters dropped as she followed them resolutely. At the end of each hot, back-stiffening day, she brought home an armload of barley. And she and Naomi never went hungry.

Follow Jesus faithfully. Bend down and glean. The Lord will never suffer us to go hungry. May it be spiritual hunger, healing hunger, dream fulfilment hunger, joy hunger, physical hunger … He has them all covered.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jer. 29:11)

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On Trudging, Patience, and Gratitude

Trudging through life. That’s exactly how I feel. Being unable to stand up and walk and move normally, with the constant discomforts brought by acid reflux, uncomfortable breathing, fatigue, weakness, and dizziness, my daily life is far different from the life I used to know more than a decade ago, or the lives of those around me and the people I know. It’s hard. Most days it’s like plowing through knee-deep snow (although I haven’t really tried that yet) or clay, where every single step takes a lot of effort and energy.

WINTER. My watercolor painting of a bird and dried up cherries in winter on 9" x 12" wc paper. (Reference photo by Betty Wiley on Flickr via Pinterest).

WINTER. My watercolor painting of a bird and dried up cherries in winter on 9″ x 12″ wc paper. (Reference photo by Betty Wiley on Flickr via Pinterest).

So, it’s like that: I trudge through the hours, days, weeks, and months. It’s like going over a hurdle from the last one to the next, heaving a huge sigh of relief and gratitude in between. One school term to the next. That means a three-month worth of homework and tutoring done and over with. One special occasion celebrated – photos taken, singing and laughters rang out, delectable food enjoyed, smiles exchanged, and thank-yous blown out towards heaven – to the next.

One heavy step after another. By faith. In faith.

I can no longer remember the last time that I cruised through life, breezing from one activity to another and waltzing through one celebration to the next.

That is what I see the people around me do. I find it hard to live and move with the rush and exhilaration around me, that’s why I often retreat to my quiet world where lack of strength is welcome and exhaustion finds rest. Hours of quiet, inactivity and recovery tick away with difficulty, but these, too, shall pass. Until the next activity. That and my deep desire to nurture a gentle and quiet spirit, much like Mary’s. With all the excitement around her with the birth of the Savior and the shepherds paying homage, Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart (Luke 2:19). No stress for Mary!

I hope that I don’t sound like I’m grumbling. I am only trying to explain how it feels like to be me, to trudge through life, and yet, learning the virtue of patience and living grateful at the same time.

True patience is devoid of complaints. That’s why it’s a virtue. It holds the character of a quiet, enduring, and sometimes, sacrificing, spirit. In the KJV Bible, it is called long-suffering and part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:4)

It’s the schoolroom of patience that we become perfect and complete. To run with patience the race that is set before us.

It is through the diligent practice of patience that we overcome, crossing one gulf to the next.

There is no more vivid example of that than in my swimming through the waters of a school term. Every afternoon, I anticipate the arrival of the kids from school. I set aside whatever I am working on, may it be a watercolor painting, working with my laptop, etc., and rest and be ready to welcome the kids. To offer them food when they are hungry, to massage feet when they are sleepy, and most of all, to tackle the homework and lessons. Being a very diligent and conscientious student once, I am the same in tutoring the kids, Tim now, especially. It is a task I don’t want to scrimp on.

You can’t imagine the relief I felt when suddenly – the term is over! And my Tim got straight As. Hallelujah! My trudging has been rewarded, now onto the next. Tim is just in grade 3 now. We have a loooong way to go. But always, we operate with the grace and strength of the Lord with unceasing prayers.

Last Saturday, December 3, we celebrated Tim’s birthday. We only invited 2 of his closest friends from our neighborhood because I can’t entertain people outside of family. I thought that Tim and his friends would just romp around then eat. My mistake. The grandmother of one of the friends came (she is a long time friend of the family), with the baby sister and a nanny in tow. I was in the patio ready to celebrate with the family and I could no longer flee to the sanctuary of my room.

To make the story short, I was able to visit with the granny-friend, took some photos and a video of everybody singing Happy Birthday and Tim blowing the candle on his cake (all of it happened in a whirl, as far as I was concerned, for I was fretting within, being very conscious of exhausting myself). And then had to embarrassingly excuse myself and hastily escape to my room because I couldn’t hold off the dizziness and exhaustion any longer. I was so embarrassed to ride in my wheelchair in front of them all but I didn’t have any choice. That’s what I had been avoiding to happen, that’s why I don’t open our doors to visitors. The nanny was openly staring at me like I was from another planet. Ugh!

But before the evening was over, (for Ate Irene, my neighbor-friend, followed me later to the bedroom where I was resting), I was able to sell her my entire 4-piece original IRIS painting collection, on 12″ x 16″!

I was fatigued but the night had its own rewards. I could forget about the stares when I had to hastily leave in my wheelchair. I only needed to focus on the good part: I was able to visit with a long-time neighbor and see her admire my paintings to the extent that she couldn’t almost make up her mind what to get. That makes me feel appreciated and it somewhat validates my work and gives me a feeling of fulfilment. All for the glory of my Father in heaven!

At the end of a long, tiring day, gratefulness is what is really needed. A grateful heart soothes and smoothes out stresses. It sorts out the lovely from the ugly and focuses and holds onto that. It brings back our perspective to look unto Jesus for He is our comfort and rest.

Gratefulness conveys us to another day, to rise up and welcome the new morning with hope and great expectations. For miracles happen everyday. Just be on the lookout for them.

It is of the Lord‘s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.

23 They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.

24 The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. (Lam. 3:22-24)

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A Heart and Mind on Things Above

I feel the nearness of God not only when blessings abound, when prayers are answered, and peace and joy are to be had, but more so when He speaks during difficult times. When He gently (or strongly!) reminds and reproves and puts us back on track when we sway. It is truly a sad thing when we so need His light and guidance and He is quiet. When we plunge headlong into our erroneous ways and we become distressed by them, who will lead us in the paths of righteousness but the Shepherd Himself?

things above

The power of God is as prominent in His correction of us (and so, we repent and change our course) as when He performs a miracle. In my life, I dance (in my spirit) in happiness when He speaks clearly, and I listen and obey, and so, peace floods my being, especially in hard situations when my emotions are dumb as a mule.

I had one of these experiences just recently when I sorted out my bags with the help of the kids. I haven’t used a bag in years since I only inhabit our bedroom and patio, but I wanted to haul out all my old bags and see if I could pull out one to be given away. Through the years since I stopped working, my bag collection has dwindled. I have been taking them out to give away and those few remaining are the ones I really want to keep. Really expensive ones.

But I had the shock of my life when I found out that some of those bags that I was referring to were no longer in my closet. Nowhere to be found in the whole house. Months before this, we also found out that my favorite-ever Coach sandals, a gift from my sister-in-law, and other imported leather sandals and Hannah’s boots were all gone. But even before we found this out, my Canon DSLR camera and Hannah’s cellphone had also been stolen. This time, we found out belatedly that my bags were stolen, too! There was a time when we emptied our en suite closet and put them all in the guest room closet while our bedroom was being renovated. That must be the time the stealings occurred.

My Coach, Lancel, and Longchamp bags were all gone. These bags were slightly used and as good as new. Imagine my devastation when I found out about this third batch of stolen properties!

When my Coach sandals (which I only used when I had my picture taken – for blog and FB purposes – since I can’t walk yet) was stolen, I cried. Finding the bags also gone, I could no longer help my anger. I was angry and dismayed at the same time. I couldn’t rein in my emotions and my peace was slowly flying away.

Then God’s still, small voice spoke:

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Mat. 6:19-21)

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. (Col. 3:1-2)

Immediately, I made a U-turn from the road of unprofitable emotions and obeyed God’s voice. What relief! What freedom! The Lord Jesus said that if we continue in His Word, we are indeed His disciples, “And [we] shall know the truth, and the truth shall make [us] free” (John 8:31-32).

Not only that. I also summoned Conching, our housekeeper, whom I have brought to the Lord months ago, and preached to her these words. (Conching isn’t a suspect in the stealings). The remaining bags sprawled in front of us, I told her of the words of Jesus. I needed to triumph over the devil’s work: my stolen things and the negative emotions the discovery brought. And the best way to do that was to quash him with God’s Word.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.

This commandment reminds us to be sober – moderate – in all things. It guides us not to hoard material things, especially the ones that are very expensive they are a luxury. Or things that are not really needed, superfluous. It teaches us not to live in excess or extravagance, pampering and lavishing ourselves with this world’s goods to the extent that we may grow distant or indifferent to others’ lack. Satisfying all our earthly desires without restraint is not Christlike. It may even numb us from seeing and feeling the deep needs of the world. 

Though we may have the means to satisfy our appetites, we may not act on it, but live within the bounds of simplicity and modesty. I can’t reconcile the thought of a Christ follower filling up her house with very expensive gilded Italian furniture that is fit for a royalty, for example, or with Murano crystals lining up shelves and gracing side tables. Aren’t these just a few examples of lust of the eyes and pride of life?

When I was still a businesswoman and living a worldly life, I was a shopaholic. Every time I traveled abroad, I hauled two rolling suitcases: one filled, one empty. The empty suitcase would be brimming with purchases when I flew back home. I loved to shop the prestigious brands. If it was generic, I didn’t want it. I also loved jewelry, the genuine kind: diamonds, pearls, and gold.

But all that changed when I received the Lord Jesus in my life. With the Holy Spirit now residing in me, sobriety and simplicity also now reign in my life. In our church, Jesus Miracle Crusade International Ministry, wearing of jewelry of any kind is discouraged. So, no one does. And that is a good thing, for the desire for jewelries makes one to covet.

The essence of this teaching is to uphold a life of holiness – modest and simple – and to veer our attention away from worldly things to godly things. To make us set our minds on things above and not on things on the earth. 

If wearing of jewelries is banned because of the above reasons, shall we then satisfy our desires on other things just because they are not specifically banned? A collection of signature bags, shoes, and clothing perhaps? To regularly upgrade to the latest iPhone because we don’t want to be left behind? To buy a sleek BMW or a handsome SUV? To live a posh life?

This doesn’t sit well with the Lord’s reply when a scribe announced that he would follow Him wherever He went.

And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” (Mat. 8:20)

This is the Lord’s caution to all who desire to follow Him: life with Him is not a bed of roses. It is not living in a fantasy world where all our wishes come true, but a life that denies itself daily.

Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. (Luke 9:23)

Deny ourselves from earthly desires that do not have an impact on eternity.

(Photo from Pinterest).

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Journey with Jesus,

Christlikeness or Worldliness?

I swiped the tears that leaked out of my eyes like a child would, sorrow punctuating my every word as I confided with my husband about something that had deeply bothered me. The moment I saw it on Facebook, I was overwhelmed with dismay and at once, my sprit sank to the ground. How fast can a Facebook post make one so depressed! Her peace is shaken and there is even a threat of stumbling in her faith walk. How sad it is when one unthinkingly (or even unintentionally) puts a stumbling block on one’s brother’s or sister’s path!

stumbling block

On the afternoon that I saw it, I curled up on my side and tried to process how I would fight the threat of losing zeal in serving God. I knew that my love for the Lord Jesus Christ would never wane or change no matter the circumstances, but the quality of my service may be affected nonetheless. That is, if I didn’t address it seriously as I should. For the things that may cause one to stumble in her faith walk are matters of grave importance and should not be shoved aside or tolerated or ignored.

Like a very disappointed child who has not received the birthday gift he or she has ardently prayed for and wished for upon a star on many a starry night, I felt that my unceasing prayers for “that particular thing” which touches my faith life and confidence in the place where the Lord has sown me, had come to nought, clearly and completely. And I was devastated. I didn’t know where to run to. Who would listen? Who would understand how you struggle against weariness of spirit and feelings of discouragement and utter disappointment because of the things you see which you have diligently prayed for not to ever see?

What if they are all looking at the very same thing differently? Or maybe that they will rather choose to look the other way?

But my spirit within me wouldn’t quiet down. I think that it is not a bad thing to be so deeply affected of the things that matter most to our spiritual walk. For if your spirit is so stirred up within you in such a way that you break down in tears, you need to listen to it and address it accordingly. You will not stuff it all somewhere without processing it for it might grow into a hard lump of resentment and bitterness that could be deadly, like cancer.

When your spirit is stirred up within you because you believe the Word has not been lived well, I think that is a good thing. It is the Holy Spirit’s conviction. You are deeply affected by such spiritual things because they matter most to you. How we react or respond is what we need to ponder on and pray for.

And that’s exactly what I did. There was nowhere or no one to run to but to the Lord Jesus Himself. I confessed the turmoil swirling in my heart and mind, the heaviness upon my soul. I poured out to Him every detail. I so needed His help.

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. (1 Pet. 5:6-7)

A considerable amount of peace descended upon me (but not yet complete for I knew that there would be more wrestlings in spirit and prayer regarding that matter following that afternoon). But I was comforted with the Holy Spirit’s gentle whisper to my heart that I must focus my attention on my own faith walk and do my best to be acceptable and pleasing in God’s eyes, that I should not start making changes in my life just because other Christians are doing it. My decision in living a simple and modest life, as much as possible, free of any frivolity and superfluity, must not be affected by any of the things that I see around me.

A Christ follower must not be “keeping up with the Joneses”.

What the Word vehemently teaches and the Holy Spirt’s guidance on living a life that is Christ-lke – that I must fastidiously follow and the Lord will be most delighted. Still, I know I need to pray more that worldliness should not define the lives of God’s children. These thoughts that ran their course in my heart that afternoon pacified my troubled mind.

The threads of our lives must be woven into this: the simplicity of Christ. Why, as the King of kings, would He choose to be born in a hay-laden manger in a dark and dank stable rather than in a gilded palace, if He didn’t want to make a very grave statement of living a godly life and not a worldly one?

Apostle Paul wrote:

And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. ((1 Tim. 6:8)

And yet, God is so generous He showers us with even more. We do not only have food and clothing, we also have beautiful homes, sleek cars, gadgets, appliances, etc. But must we live in lavishness just because we can? Should we not live within the limits which a life of simplicity and modesty dictates? Should we rather share our abundance with the less fortunate brethren who, to begin with, may not even have proper food and clothing, than to fill ourselves more than necessary?

Should material blessings be taken to the extreme? More houses, more cars, more expensive gadgets, more, more, more! Isn’t that already crossing the line between Christlikeness and worldliness? Should sky be the limit?

I have a story about this that involves my husband. In 2008, I found out that he was planning to buy a secondhand BMW X5. For those not in the know, that is an SUV, and although secondhand, I didn’t even want to think about the price. I confronted him about it with tears and implored him not to push through with his plan. Our days of worldliness were past and he knew that. And, why was it that while I was desperately focusing on my healing, he was eyeing a BMW SUV?!  I quoted Bible verses such as 1 John 2:16:

For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.

To no avail. That BMW X5 was one of many which the great flood of 2009 was able to destroy. It stayed in the machine shop for many years and needed countless repairs and hard-to-find, expensive spare parts before he could even use it again.

Now, my husband is not really a frivolous man, but he said that he wanted to taste driving such a fine vehicle. The desire and temptation were too great for him that, unfortunately, he gave in to it.

When others, especially our brothers and sisters in Christ, see our propensity to embrace luxury and superfluity, how would that affect them? For those who do not have, they may harbor envy, covetous thoughts, or self-pity. Or simply that they may feel depressed. For those who have, this may encourage them to have more and live more lavishly. Either way, we are causing them to stumble.

Apostle Paul wrote:

Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way. (Rom. 14: 13, emphasis added)

We are not to judge, yes. But most important of all, we are not to put a stumbling block on our brother’s or sister’s way. We do not live alone. We live responsibly and conscientiously, as shining lights to others and not as stumbling blocks.

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Journey with Jesus,

Living Blessed

Tim comes to kiss me goodnight and again, I am reminded of God’s goodness and faithfulness. Okay, so you often read me writing those two attributes of our heavenly Father these days, but I honestly can’t help myself. That’s exactly what He is to me: good and faithful. So, following this road of counting my blessings and blessing God for them, like a bee follows the flowers’ fragrance, I am continuing on with my words of thanksgiving and praise.

living blessed

There have been the usual challenges in my life lately, like marriage and motherhood, not counting the fact that I am still unable to walk and travel. But as I was saying, when Tim came to kiss me goodnight at the end of a rather stressful day, I clung to him and squeezed him so tight as the memory of God’s wonderful blessing played out in my mind. There are days that I want to focus on my difficulties and forget to be intentionally and fervently thankful, but the Holy Spirit is quick to point me to the truth: that the Lord Jesus has done mighty works on my behalf. I only need to remember again and again.

In 2005, while I was sick in bed, twice I dreamed of a beautiful baby boy sleeping beside me. And in those two times, I woke up with a deep longing in my heart. I wanted so much for the dream to come true. I wanted to hold that baby in my arms not only in my dreams. But how could that happen, seeing that I was very sick and weak?

One day, an older sister in Christ came to visit. I told her about my dreams. She said that God was showing me that He was going to bless me with a son. That brought joy to my heart although I never really gave it much thought. I was more focused on my illness and suffering and my hope for recovery.

One whole year passed wherein I received partial healing and was able to go to our church’s crusades with my family. Then in 2007, I conceived. The dream had turned into reality. Nothing is impossible with God. He is a good God, a rewarder of our unwavering faith and obedience and fulfiller of our most fervent dreams.

That night that the memory came rushing back, I hugged Tim tightly. He’s one of the proofs of God’s love and faithfulness to me. I was embracing God’s gift, the deep desires of my heart filled to overflowing.

It’s not a secret to you, my dear readers, that I had struggled with comparison and envy these many years. I had written about it a few times here and also in my book Quiet Strength: And Learning From the Women of the Bible Who Had It. This is mainly because of my illness and suffering and being unable to work, travel, and do the things my heart desires to do. They have not completely gone but it’s far less intense and frequent now. They don’t affect me as much. Yes, I’m much stronger and wiser now. God, through my incessant prayers and supplications with much pleading, is slowly walking me away from these spiritually unprofitable emotions and practices. He is slowly opening my eyes to live blessed rather than live less: less than, loved less, known less, blessed less.

This is the song of my heart now:

For He satisfies the longing soul, And fills the hungry soul with goodness. (Ps. 107:9)

And so I want to live blessed everyday even through life’s vicissitudes.

How do we live blessed? More specifically, how does one who has frail health live blessed day after day after day?

Living blessed means that you count everything in your life – good or bad, trial or triumph – as stepping stones for growth and fruition, and in the end, as reasons for joy and thanksgiving. It is believing and trusting that God is in control and He knows what’s best for us even if we don’t understand and see the meaning of our painful trials, and in the process, embrace the lessons wherewith we can grow thereby.

It is seeing beyond our circumstances, toward the things that are not temporal but eternal. It is living in the knowledge that Jesus loves us fiercely, unconditionally, and unfailingly, and that nothing can separate us from His love. Living in the knowledge that He loves us so much He died for us to give us eternal life.

Living blessed, therefore, is living loved, forgiven, saved, joyful, thankful, courageous, fruitful, generous, victorious, and as heir of eternal life!

Living blessed means we bless others, too. Yes, even if they may have wronged or hurt us. It is a proof that Jesus’ love resides in us to the magnitude that it naturally flows outward toward others. Especially those who are so in need of Jesus and His salvation. Yes, you are so blessed that anger or unforgiveness  or ill will doesn’t find a place in your heart!

Living blessed is counting less the material things we possess (although we sincerely thank God for them, too) and more of the works of God that we do, laying up for ourselves treasures in heaven.

Not very recently, I focused my attention to the silent conviction that has been going on in my mind. I wondered why I wasn’t so much affected by the brokenness of the world at large. I often just forget about the great sufferings and needs of peoples around the world when I read about their plight. Maybe the main reason was that, I couldn’t do anything about it anyway. But it is never good for a Christian to feel helpless and indifferent. It is un-Christlike.

There were spurts of intense compassion and feverish praying for others, even for people I didn’t know, in years past, like when I prayed for those countrymen who were fleeing the conflict in Palestine, when I prayed for the people that might be affected by the fire near our place, and a few other instances. But the passion had not been sustained until I didn’t do it anymore.

I wondered when I would have the heart and genuine love for others’ salvation, those people that are outside of my circle, people I haven’t seen or met but exist anyway. Like the prostitute that prowls the streets at night, the children who dine with Rugby instead of a decent food. Every man, woman, and child, who sleeps in gutters, under the bridge, in dark alleys, in the parks, and who is in danger of every evil imaginable. Unprotected. For the one who languishes in bed with no hope of healing; the wife or mother who nurses a broken heart and home; the husband or father who can’t leave the casino or another woman’s arms.

For the destitute, the broken, and the lost.

The first stirrings began when the lyrics of Christy Nockels’ Sing Along hit home. At night when I say my prayers, safe in the comfort of our home, I think about those who are far less fortunate, the people I mentioned above, and the Lord put into my heart to pray for them, with true compassion flowing from my heart. I pray that God would cover them with His protection and not let them be destroyed as the world sleeps, that He would reach out His mighty arm towards them and save and heal them, too.

Great God
Wrap Your arms around this world tonight…*

That’s what being blessed and living blessed do.

(Sing Along by Christy Nockels; photo from Instagram).

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Journey with Jesus,

Immeasurable

The day Felix and the kids went to Timberland for a day of swimming and breathing in nature, I finished my watercolor painting of poppies and then baked chicken BBQ buns. I didn’t want to think about how it could have been so lovely going with them and enjoying together the things the place had to offer. Timberland Sport and Nature Club is situated on top of the mountains of San Mateo, Rizal. The place overlooks the whole metropolis down below and neighboring mountains. The olympic-sized, infinity pool makes you feel like you’re on the edge of the earth :) . There’s an al fresco cafe and I wanted to imagine my husband and I enjoying some refreshments while the kids swam, the cool mountain breeze and resplendent view invigorating us.

immeasurable

But it was very quiet at home and in the quiet, I blocked all the “if only” thoughts and focused on the activities God gave me to accomplish on that day. He laced it with fresh inspiration yet again, balancing the melancholy with the joy of creating something: I would be baking buns and half of them I would send to our beloved pastor who has been weak and recuperating these past months. I also received inspiration to wrap birthday gifts for a hardworking couple in church who lead the choir. We have been blessed to be able to give, and giving gifts, however simple, has inspired me anew.

I recently wrote that when we learn to dwell in the everyday gifts of God and immerse ourselves in gratefulness and intentional thankfulness, our unsatisfied desires that threaten to undo us would turn to deep satiety in Him we never knew was possible. And indeed, the Lord is faithfully doing exactly that.

I also wrote sometime ago about my life flowing in trickles. I remember that again when Felix was assisting me bathe in my new clawed feet bathtub. He has to carry me from my wheelchair to the bathtub and back again after soaking in warm, scented waters for at least 30 minutes. It’s not easy for both of us (I’m quite heavy and though he exercises everyday, he still needs to exert a lot of muscle), but we are both grateful. On one of those bathroom episodes, while I basked in the aftermath of a warm, lavender bath, I commented, “Oh, thank You, dearest Lord Jesus! I’m so happy. So Dy, a little bath here, a little happiness there. I paint a little, bake a little, decorate the house a little… My life flowing in trickles and I can’t complain!”

A continuous trickle of life and blessings – I am deeply grateful.

I have discovered that the more we thank the Lord sincerely with all our heart, the more He draws us closer to Him. And when we are closer to Him, His blessings, though flowing in trickles, are magnified in such a way that they become bigger than our longings and desires. They become sources of great joy and gratitude so high and wide and deep they are immeasurable!

When Felix and the kids were away in Pampanga for the wedding of a young couple from Church, the threat of loneliness and bitterness hovered over me once again. My husband and I were principal sponsors and Tim was Bible bearer. The bride’s mother was a former employee of our company and who also happens to be my friend and the one who brought me to Jesus. So, we wanted to be present.

I persuaded Hannah, now a 15-year-old young adult who stands up to her Dad’s jaw, to be my proxy. After negotiations involving a promise of a Sakura watercolor set, she agreed. I had a full-lace, peach dress made for her, a new pair of quite expensive sleek heels, and a matching evening purse. She didn’t gloat as much as I did on those things, mind you (unlike me, she doesn’t have a single fashionista bone in her body 😀 ). But she was representing me and would be walking alongside her Dad on the aisle, so I didn’t want her looking shabby.

As we prepared on the wedding day, wistful thoughts came in and out of my mind, but I shoved them aside. Daddy and son were dapper in their suits. Wouldn’t it have been blissful if I were well and went with them with my own beautiful lace dress, walking with my husband, my hand wrapped around the crook of his arm?

My three loves at the wedding - The Lakeshore, Pampanga.

My three loves at the wedding – The Lakeshore, Pampanga.

It was a lakeside-and-wharf-themed wedding held at The Lakeshore Promenade in Mexico, Pampanga. How lovely is that? I wanted to be there, but I refused to think about the “what might have been” had I been well. The tempter came and tried to sow bitterness, saying, “How can you remain at peace with God when He denies the very things your soul so desires? How can you not be bitter against Him?”

I shook the thoughts away and shooed the pesky demon by not falling into his baits and taunts. I had been through enough pity parties and bitter sulks against God, I knew better.

And I have not forgotten my story. When the Lord Jesus found me, I was just out of a sinful relationship I barely survived, wrecking our family and another’s in the process. I was dying in my sin.

But Jesus came mightily with His love and light and the rest is history. His story, actually. All our salvation stories and testimonies are His. He has been writing them before the foundation of the world.

Now, He gives me enduring peace and joy that the world doesn’t understand. I feel loved by Him despite of lingering illness and physical difficulties. Do I have the license to be bitter after all He has done, saving me, wiping out all my sins, restoring my family, and sealing me for eternity, just because I”m not walking, running, or traveling as other people do? None whatsoever! His love is enough! We need to realize and understand that Jesus is enough and always will be. Can one attempt to measure Jesus’ love? Can one set boundaries to it?

It’s true that even at this hour, I’m still trying to know and grasp the width and length and depth and height of the love of Christ which passes knowledge (see Ephesians 3: 17-19). During those times of utter physical suffering, I secretly and silently questioned it in the depths of my soul. But now, He has translated the language of His love into something that I can comprehend, appreciate, and enjoy – healing (though partial), strength (both physical and spiritual), lessons learned (that would last me ’til eternity!), and joy overflowing!

With His latest gift to me – watercolor painting – He brings me fresh inspiration with each waking moment, filling my heart with bubbling eagerness to a promise of yet another day of vibrant colors and splashes that become beautiful works of art, sending my spirit into silently shouting, “Your compassions never fail! They are new every morning. Great is Thy faithfulness!”

If we learn to dwell in the place of active and intentional thankfulness, the things that seem to be lacking in our lives are dwarfed and eventually become insignificant, as we learn to look not at the things that are temporal but at the things that are eternal.

(Photo from Pinterest).

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Journey with Jesus,

Cup Running Over

After my leisurely evening bath in my new bathtub and then a round of Scrabble with the family, where as usual, was raucous and the hot fries went flying as fast as the hand could travel from the bowl to the mouth and back again until there was nothing left but a few salt crystals – I rested with a heart overflowing with thanksgiving.

psalm23

How could I not be steeped with gratitude at that moment, I felt so full the words of thanksgiving flowed from my lips like a stream? If you have dwelt long in a place where there’s only suffering, fear, and death hovering around you like a gnat hovers over a carabao (water buffalo), the simplest of things that bring you joy would be a reason to rejoice and thank God. There were long seasons, almost covering a year, when I was too ill and weak I couldn’t bathe. Thin layer of dirt mottled my otherwise flawless skin like maps. And when I had regained some strength, a sponge bath in bed was all I could have.

If you had been in the lowest valley of the shadow of death for a long time and the only things that made you alive were your undying faith and hope in the Lord Jesus Christ, the experience of recovery, no matter how hard and slow, would be to you a glorious one. A blessing so wonderful you will not forget to thank the Lord each and every day.

So, even if my family traveled to Island Cove in the historic province of Cavite and then to Timberland up in the mountains of San Mateo without me, I would remain joyful and grateful. Even if I cannot walk and travel, even if there are deep longings in my heart for my fervent dreams to be fulfilled, I choose to look at the little gifts the Lord scatters in my day everyday, like finding diamonds in the dust.

My husband insisted that he buy me a bathtub where I can bathe properly and even enjoy it. (About 3 years ago, we remodelled our adjoining bathroom to give leeway for my wheelchair. The old, embedded bathtub had to be removed). I’ve always wanted the classic bathtub, the one which stands regally on 4 clawed feet. It touches my incurably romantic soul :) . And since its smaller, it would fit perfectly in our bathroom.

Felix found the perfect one. He showed me a photo and I liked it instantly. But it wasn’t cheap. For me, it was too expensive I couldn’t possibly pamper myself with such luxury, so I vehemently told him not to buy it. True, we bought a faux rattan furniture for our patio just recently and the price was almost the same with that of the bathtub. But I had wanted to spend some time outside in our garden to breathe  in fresh air and look at the trees and the sky. Before Holy Week, we levelled out the floor of the patio (our bedroom opens to the patio) so my wheelchair could pass through without inconvenience. Then we bought the very comfy rattan sofa with plush cushions and pillows. I can now spend leisurely my afternoons and evenings there, that is, before the mosquitoes come to fly me away 😀 .

When Felix said that he found one which was 10,000 pesos ($200) cheaper, I felt the Holy Spirit whisper to my heart that a bathtub would make my life happier and more comfortable. (Previously, after my husband had bathed me in our bed, we had to dry it for hours because it had been flooded).

Is it selfish to receive God’s generous gifts? Is it bad to enjoy His bountiful blessings? I endeavor to live simply and modestly, remembering how the Lord Jesus had nowhere to lay His head (see Matthew 8:20). But if He chooses to heap His blessings upon us in whatever form – physically, materially, spiritually – should we not receive them with open arms and give Him thanks for them?

Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. (1 Tim. 6:17, emphasis added)

IMG_5054

Able-bodied people soak in bathtubs, indulge in spas, swim in pools, and bask in beaches without a mind for it. But for weak, ailing people like me, the things that healthy people take for granted are a luxury. My bathtub is so cute and sleek (wink) and comfortable. The comfortably warm water feels good on my body and induces me to sleep better. When Felix poured my Aveeno lavender foam bath, the scent which I like so much soothed me and the gentle white foams caressed my body (a body that has suffered a lot). As I luxuriated in my fragrant bath, I felt the love of my good and generous Father embracing me.

To be loved and cherished by the ever-loving, ever-giving God, is a blessing beyond measure. My cup runneth over and thanksgiving is poured out towards heaven.

I love You, I love You, I love You!

(That lovely lavender foam bath led to my desire for our cosmetic ingredients company to expand and venture into essential and fragrance oils. By the grace of God, we found a manufacturer and supplier in India, where rare and precious spices, and yes, essential oils, come from. Although I had retired from work since I got ill, I helped our company conceptualize the promotional materials. I painted a pretty floral and herbs border for the product lists and a lavender wreath for the label. A simple announcement was made on our company website, which I also administer, by God’s grace).

IMG_5231

Being able to use my gifts even in a simple way is another form of blessing and source of joy which I am deeply grateful for.

My soul shouts to my Lord Jesus, my Savior and faithful Father in heaven! I make my soulfelt thanksgiving a worship.

Amazement

Awe

Wonder

That night that I went to bed with heart overflowing, Psalm 23 came to mind. I love Psalm 23. It is a hope and strength and comforting companion in and through the shadow of the valley of death, but even out of it. It is a psalm often recited in death beds and funerals, but it is actually a psalm for the living! For the delivered, the healed, the tried and tested, the favored, the truly blessed!

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. (Ps. 23)

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Journey with Jesus,

God’s Beautiful Presence

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

God's beautiful presence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll sing Your praises forever

Deeper in love with You

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

I’ve found where I belong.*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Journey with Jesus,