Hope for the New Year

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

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

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

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

More Purposeful (More Living)

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

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

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

More Fruitful

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More brave

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sharing with you some of our Christmas photos:

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I Wish I Could Tell You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted…

(Selections from Ephesians 4).

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

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

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

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

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

Praise His Name

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen and amen!

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

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The Joy of God’s Calling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And what is this life?

It is to live is Christ.

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

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

To live is Christ.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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