Hope for the New Year

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


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

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

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

More Purposeful (More Living)

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

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

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

More Fruitful

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More brave

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sharing with you some of our Christmas photos:

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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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Where We’re Sown

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

where we're sown

David wrote of the blessedness of such a man:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Journey with Jesus,

Precious Peace

The things people really long for cannot be bought by any amount of wealth. That’s a cliché but its truth has never diminished through the ages. It’s interesting to note that these things – love, peace, joy, and such like – can only be had with the Holy Spirit dwelling in one’s heart. No wonder, one can travel far and wide, do all the things that bring pleasure, possess material things to one’s heart’s content, but one may grow old without ever finding love, peace, joy, and their kin. But once one receives the Holy Spirit, all these and more come with it in a beribboned package.

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

Peace. I believe this is the most difficult to find. I can never take for granted its presence in my life. It’s a gift from God that I’m grateful for everyday. For I know how to be devoid of it. There were different seasons in my life where I had known a measure of peace or absence of it.

My years in college might be the most peaceful ones of my adult life, that is, before I received my salvation later on in life. Those 5 years in Baguio City where I lived in the ladies dorm inside Saint Louis University campus were rather hard in terms of finances. But that and the rigorous duties assigned to us in the dorm didn’t even try to wane my enthusiasm to finish my course – B.S. ChE. Maybe the cool climate, the sight and scent of evergreens surrounding the campus, and the fire in me to finish college with flying colors all contributed to the atmosphere of peace in my heart, mind, and soul.

When I put up my own company at 30, the disquiet began. I entered into a world of high-profile business with all the competition involved. Even so young, I wanted my company to be a leader in the industry. So I invested all my strength, wisdom, talent, and time into it. But not without cost. Then came marriage, family, and later on, its painful undoing.

I had known how to bask in career and business success with all the pleasures and luxuries that came with it. I know that it can be experienced even without inner peace in one’s heart and mind. Success on the outside, turmoil on the inside. Why not? I had lived that kind of life, and learned, rather painfully, that one’s self wouldn’t last long in it.

I remember when I was at the peak of my career AND my personal problems, I confided to a friend who also happened to be working for a competitor. She told me that her employer was going through the same concerns and problems like mine. Do heart-wrenching problems come with worldly success? I think so, what with all the options money can avail. I mean, these options can drive one to make decisions that can be detrimental to him or her and the people involved in his or her life. One example is the option to end one’s marriage by annulment (or divorce in other countries) and starting over with another relationship. Consider the words of Apostle Paul:

But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (1 Tim. 6:9-10)

But one can be successful and godly at the same time. And filled with peace. For they trust in the living God and not in their riches. They are not proud in their wealth but rather humble in the sight of God and man. And they gladly give. Such are described in 1 Tim. 6:17-19:

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. 18 Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, 19 storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.

Peace, precious peace. Elusive to many people but God gives it to whosoever receives His gift of salvation. There will be trials and tribulations along the narrow path, for this we can be sure. But this is the assurance:

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:7)

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I’m amazed at how just a small measure (for starters) of self-discipline can make one’s life more fulfilling! I’ve been jolted awake by what I read in my new daily devotional about making good choices. But what’s even more amazing is that, the Lord has readily supplied me with the inspiration to give it a go. It’s tremendously more exciting when it’s the Lord Himself who puts the wind in your sails to propel you to follow a certain path. Then you know it’s really for the best. Consciously and consistently making good choices makes up our self-discipline. How good can that be? If we seriously consider every decision or choice we have to make, whether big or small, simple or complicated – it would make a huge difference in our lives!

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

Self-discipline or self-control is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. But we think of it more as curbing our emotions and our fleshly lusts, and yes, it is primarily that. But self-discipline also consists of a measure of faith, vision, and time management. I was undisciplined when it came to my sleeping hours. I slept so late, sometimes as late as 2AM, reading. Then during the day, I always resisted the urge (and need) to nap. Though I am ill and weak, I could not give priority to my recovery, although of course, I pray for it fervently and constantly. But when I read the daily devotional and a fresh dose of inspiration came with it, I realized that I could begin to practice doing things that could boost my health and strength.

After the latest string of attacks that I had at the end of summer, I was too weak and afraid to try walking exercises again. But when a brilliant plan was birthed in my mind – of sleeping early (at a designated time), napping during the day to boost energy, eating healthy, and then practice walking again even a few steps at a time – I was definitely in! Yes, it’s just consciously making a chain of good choices everyday! But not without faith. For standing on my two weak, atrophied feet would take a handsome amount of faith. And then there’s the vision. What kind of a brilliant plan without a vision? Of looking into the fruitful end of it? That’s what will drive us and encourage us on days when it is more difficult to carry on. At the end of my self-discipline and training, I see myself a lot more energetic!

Just like our spiritual walk – we keep going, we endure trials – because we are looking unto the end of our faith, even our salvation.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. (1 Cor. 9:24-25 NIV, emphasis added)

(Image taken from here and edited by me).

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What’s in a Decade?

From the place of suffering, a decade seems brief, its years fleeting, like the leaves of a tree plucked down by the passing wind and fall one by one in haste. And you don’t even care as they (the years) flew by swiftly. Their quality you don’t even want to consider, how evidently lean and lacking they looked. You just want them to pass, to be over with. To the one who suffers, you don’t want time to linger. You don’t want time to take its time.

That would be how you see a decade if you were left to suffer all alone. But if God was in it from day one, the appearance and essence of a decade change in every way.

You will have known how to really believe and trust – not by sight, not by might, but by the Spirit of God.

You will have seen and tasted His miracles.

You will have received the wisdom to know that His trials come to mold and transform you into His likeness.

That hardship and suffering teach the most valuable lessons.

You will have realized that godly virtues like humility, honesty, holiness, love, to name a few, are only gained through living and walking in the Spirit. These are its fruits while He abides in us.

You will have known and experienced how it is like to bask in His glorious presence.

How to be loved and comforted by Love itself.

If you look back with a grateful heart, you will see that the decade was not lean and lacking at all but FULL OF GRACE! Amazing, ineffable grace!

On October 15th, I’m celebrating ten years of walking with the Lord. If I had not fallen gravely ill ten years ago, would I have sought the Lord and His offer of salvation? Maybe not. Maybe I would have carried on with life with all its success and the headiness it brought. And with all its sinfulness. And maybe it wouldn’t have taken long before salvation was already too late for me. What if death came before salvation? I know I wouldn’t have had the chance to have a glimpse of heaven. I wouldn’t have had the chance to hope for eternity.

Without my salvation, what could all the success in the world have done for me? Nothing! For nothing in the whole world, with all its affluence, could have bought my salvation. It was a gift from God. It took the life of my Savior Jesus Christ, His atoning blood that was shed in Calvary.

For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? (Mat. 16:26)

The workings of God are at most mysterious. Who can fathom His mind and know His ways? But to me, they are altogether wonderful!

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. (Is. 55:8)

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jer. 29:11 NLT)

If I would give a title to the past decade, it would be Knowing the Love of Jesus. For in the lowest valley, in the darkest night, in the fiercest storm – I have known His love. And if you have known His love, you would have known the very best thing in life. The greatest gift you could ever have.

(Photo taken from Google images and edited at picmonkey.com).

I might be linking up with these lovely blogs.

Journey with Jesus,