That Our Joy May Be Full

When was the last time that your joy was full? I mean, in every sense of the word “full”? No part fear, no part sorrow. No lack, no traces of longing or dissatisfaction somewhere deep inside. You are content and your joy is pure and unsullied. Maybe for you, it was last Christmas or yesterday or this morning. For me, I can’t remember the last time. It was too long ago, a time when good health was mine to enjoy. For even when my son was born, a day I would have celebrated with trumpets blowing, sorrow filled my heart. I was blessed with a beautiful, healthy baby boy, but I was too sick and weak to relish the moment. Instead of my heart being filled with joy, it was filled with fear. It has been that way since my health was stolen and in its place is sickness and suffering: joy mixed with sorrow. If that were even possible.

This was just a super quick doodle on my mixed media journal. But if you look closer, notice the metallic gold, copper, and ruby on the petals’ and leaves’ edges. For aren’t answered prayers and fulfilled dreams like gilded things?

Since around Christmas last year, I had been feeling depleted and running on low (if not empty). I couldn’t seem to put my heart and mind into a place where I could move in a steady rhythm once again and with some measure of contentment and joy. So, I just let myself float and wait for fresh grace and inspiration to come. Although all that time, I continued steadfastly in prayer.

The night I started to write this, I felt some sense of peace and courage flowing in to continue to serve the Lord with all I am and to love Him just as much. In a subtle, almost imperceptible way, I felt a fresh and much deeper still commitment to do those things that are pleasing in God’s eyes creeping into my heart, spreading quietly but surely. I needed that fresh watering of my soul for I had been writing on my prayer journal, asking the Lord to not let me grow cynical.

I remembered the Lord Jesus’ words —

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Mat. 11:28)

“…he who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35)

His love and words woo us back to Him, faithfully and fervently abiding in Him.

I was revived, rekindled, and wooed back into the happy place of loving and following the Lord Jesus Christ. It didn’t come like a rushing wind, or a mighty fire from heaven, or a flood that swept me. It came like a soft feather caressing my face, like a warm flannel gently wrapped around me by unseen hands. I had to strain my ears to listen, to make sure it was there alright.

When I woke up the next morning, my soul whispered, “I love You, my Father, my dearest Lord Jesus Christ”, even before I opened my eyes.

I know, it is well with my soul.

Sometimes when I desire so much to get well and be able to go out, doing the things I’ve been so wanting to do, like traveling and testifying of the grace and mercy of God, a voice whispers in my mind. It tempts me to feel guilty asking for those things that will make me full of joy. Most of the time, it succeeds. I listen, and then feel guilty. But when I reached John 16, I was freed through the Lord’s words. Surely, I have read it numerous times before, but this time, it took on a new color, the very thing that I needed.

“…ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:24)

That voice in my head has been lying, for the Lord Jesus tells me differently.

It’s okay to not feel joy-full when we’re deeply longing for something, like healing perhaps. We need not feel guilty if we feel sorrow not receiving the things we so desire. That doesn’t make us ungrateful. And yes, it’s okay to desire the things that will do us a world of good. Even the Lord knows that it’s only when we have received what we asked for that our joy may be full. He’s saying that, until we ask and receive it, its absence in our lives leaves much to be desired and our joy is not complete.

It’s okay to desire and ask and believe that whatever we’re asking for from His hand will make us full of joy.

A healing.

A child.

A friend.

A love.

A yes.

A relationship mended.

A marriage repaired.

A family restored.

A loved one’s salvation.

A place visited.

A dream fulfilled.

Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.(1 John 5:14-15)

Because, you know what? He’s all there. He is in that place where our joy becomes full. He is there waiting to give it to us, to rejoice with us in the receiving.

Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.

The Lord is inviting us, encouraging us, beckoning to us with His outstretched hands.

Ask.

Receive.

Be joy-full.

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A Palace Strong and Full of Light

A palace strong and full of light. I love this power-packed combination. I pray that my writing of this will be fruitful for you and me. I had written about each topic before, A House Divided Against Itself and All Light {Lessons from the Mount Part 2}. Why am I writing this again? Because I passed through Luke 11 just recently, this time with my KJV journaling Bible, and aside from the fact that I am slowed down by pondering deeper and writing down the Holy Spirit’s message, the passage spoke to me afresh at a different angle this time. The Scriptures does that to us, doesn’t it?

"STONEHOUSE", my original watercolor painting on 9" x 12" wc paper. (Inspiration: photo from IG).

“STONEHOUSE”, my original watercolor painting on 9″ x 12″ wc paper. (Inspiration: photo from IG).

In the many years of my illness, every time I open my Bible, I am always on the lookout for how God’s Word will speak to me in the light of my sickness and suffering. I strain to dig deep and scratch about the words, verses, and passages, like a hen scraping the earth for bits of food, to look for doors through which I can pass to the other side. The side of healing. And thanks be to God, for I believe that, through the years, I have been fruitful in that regard. Although I have not yet received complete healing, I have had enough strength, hope, peace, and joy to go through it all. For that length of time.

When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are in peace.22 But when a stronger than he comes upon him and overcomes him, he takes from him all his armor in which he trusted, and divides his spoils. (Luke 11:21-22)

I received another epiphany as I read this recently. We are strong and fully armed when we are at peace with God and constantly filled with the Holy Spirit. For when we are full of the Spirit of God, we walk after Him and not after the flesh. And when we walk after Him, we don the whole armor of God and are protected by it from the fiery darts of the devil. We cannot put on the whole armor of God when we don’t walk in step with the Holy Spirit no matter how hard we try. For it is the Holy Spirit that teaches, guides, and empowers us to do those things that God would have us do:

fasten the belt of truth

put on the breastplate of righteousness

shod our feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace

take up the shield of faith

put on the helmet of salvation

take the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God

pray at all times in the Spirit

(from Ephesians 6)

We can only behave wisely in a perfect way and walk within our house with a perfect heart as David himself had greatly desired (Ps. 101:2) when we follow closely after the Spirit. It would be next to impossible to live in love from a pure heart without the Spirit of God continuously sanctifying us.

The passage above further says that when we guard our own palaces, that is, our bodies, the temple of the living God, our goods are in peace. More than our material possessions, these goods mean our joy, peace, family, important relationships, work, businesses, even dreams. And of course, our health.

I have always believed that because of my sins and the bad decisions I had made before I received salvation, my health and strength were stolen by the devil, and with them, my joy and peace. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy… (part of John 10:10). But now that I am in the Lord Jesus Christ, why am I still ailing?

That, for me, is the question of the century :) .

But the peace, joy, marriage, and family that had been stolen were all restored. These goods I now have in abundance. And other good and perfect gifts I have, which I received from my Savior. So, there’s truly been a different kind of healing for me.

When I was yet of the world, there had not been a strong man guarding my palace to talk about. The devil was a lot stronger than me, that’s why he came and spoiled all my goods, even to the point of death. But even that the Lord has utilized for good. It turned out to my salvation and my clinging to Him tightly to this hour.

But even when we are already of the Lord, there are times we can still be weak against the attacker. That is, when we put our guard down. Weaknesses come in. Fears and unprofitable feelings like discouragement, self-pity, depression, resentments, anger, unforgiveness, joylessness, hopelessness grip us and seem to triumph over us. And yes, even our health becomes poor.

Why? Because we have made the attacker stronger than us. We have become weak against him because we have been divided against ourselves. How so? When we have been beholding the world instead of the Lord Jesus Christ. And when we behold the world most of the time, our mindset and affections are influenced by it. And when we are influenced by the world and not by the Word, the Holy Spirit grieves. And when He does, all manner of problems attack us on every side.

That’s why the Apostle Peter admonishes us to:

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. (1 Pet. 5:8)

I think that is the root of our problems: when we look back to the world instead of ahead of us where our Shepherd leads. In the world there is endless lusts, covetousness, envying, materialism, superfluity. The Lord Jesus warned:

“No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)

A united palace is a strong palace. A united body is a strong body.

If we focus our eyes on only one thing – JESUS – our eyes are good and we will be full of light. What wonder!

“The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness. 35 Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness. 36 If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light, as when the bright shining of a lamp gives you light.” (Luke 11:34-36)

When we behold what is bad – the world (the whole world lies in wickedness ~ 1 John 5:19) – our body also is full of darkness!

When our bodies are full of light, where will darkness dwell? All traces of darkness will flee! We are strong  – mind, heart, body, and soul – and shining brightly!

“Be dressed for service and keep your lamps burning.” (Luke 12:35 ESV)

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Journey with Jesus,

Heavy Burden

Are you a joy-bringer or a yoke-giver? Do you encourage and lift up others or do you weigh down on them? Are you a burden to your family, marriage, friendships, church, and other relationships in your life? Are you the cause of heaviness and sighing of your parents, spouse, employees, or the church? I’m not talking about those who are outside of the Church of the Living God, the people of the world, for truly, disobedience and depravity are prevalent in their lives. They don’t have a real fear of God. Outside, they appear religious, but in their way of life, they don’t really honor God. (I’m sorry I had to say that).

heavy burden

I’m talking about those in the Body of Christ who are supposed to be growing in the grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, but are actually stagnant in their spiritual growth, or worse, are slowly sliding back into the old ways and intentionally causing strifes and disunity in the church, in the family, or in the marriage.

Burden connotes that we are required to carry it (we have no other choice), to bear it upon ourselves because, despite it being unwanted, we may truly care, or it is our responsibility, or we may be humble and obedient enough to sacrifice, to haul the burden however heavy.

Yes, some Christians could be a burden to others. I could be a burden to my family, especially to my husband who has to carry me in and out of the bath tub, for example. But I’m not talking about physical burden, but a burden to the soul, much like what Rebekkah felt about Esau’s choices of wives.

And Rebekah said to Isaac, I am weary of my life because of the daughters of Heth: if Jacob take a wife of the daughters of Heth, such as these which are of the daughters of the land, what good shall my life do me? (Gen. 27:46)

How does one become a heavy yoke on others? Simply, when one’s old ways and attitudes weigh down heavily on them and influence them in such a way that they react in a negative way. They are pulled down by these negative influences and in this way, the burden becomes a cause for stumbling. But still, there are others, subjects of heavy burdens, who face their unfortunate situation equipped with loads of beseeching prayers, deeper reliance in the Word, and a steely resolve to live better and above their circumstances no matter what, by the grace of God. But these people might also be struggling internally, suffering silently.

A burden may bring heaviness and weariness to the soul, sorrow, exasperation, and anger, and it would be very hard to fight against these forces.

But how is this even possible seeing that [we] have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator (see Col. 3:9-10)?

When we become lax in pursuing the things of God. When we do not do serious —

worshiping

praying

reading of the Word

fasting.

We are not vigilant and the devourer gains a foothold in us.

When we don’t diligently seek God’s help in transforming us; we are not truly humble before Him and not fully surrendered to the work of the Holy Spirit in us.

I have heard testimonies and stories in church where a spouse or other family members have grown cold or lukewarm and have become burdens to their families.

What must you do when you are saddled with such a person in your life and your soul is weary?

Remain Humble

When we are not only unappreciated but are also the recipient of abrasive or even unkind remarks, when we feel we are being trampled upon, the natural tendency is to fight back or harbor ill feelings and seethe silently. Either way, it will make us miserable. How do we gather peace, that kind which settles gently in the heart and mind and in the deep recesses of the soul, when turmoil tries to hold our whole being captive?

We embrace humility.

We may find it hard to remain humble when we are hurt or bitter or suffering silently. But remember the Lord Jesus. May this powerful reminder speak to us today:

 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:

But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. (Phil. 2:5-8)

When we count ourselves as of no reputation, when we relinquish all pride, that one thing which holds on to the desire to be honored and feel important, it will be easier to accept and live with our circumstances. We learn to count them as part and parcel of our service to God, sacrifices we need to make. We do it for and through Him. Pains are then soothed, anger evaporates, and peace will come.

Pray Without Ceasing

We cannot survive without our lifeline to God: our unrelenting prayers, especially in times when heavy burdens bear down on us. Talk to God anytime and every time you feel the need. He is always there ready to listen and help.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:6-7)

Remember Grace

We cannot do it on our own, this “love bears all things” thing, no matter how hard we try. We need God’s grace. Tons of it. In the midst of our internal storms, remember grace. Choose to dwell in grace. We know the grace of God that has been poured out lavishly upon us, but what does it look like when lived? How do we dwell in grace?

Dwelling in grace is remembering God’s enduring mercies upon us and extending the same to others even if they don’t deserve it.

We give grace instead of rage. We bless instead of curse. Because we are grace-filled and grateful.

Remain Grateful

Our deep sense of gratefulness to God must trump any negative and ill feelings we have for the person who’s making our lives difficult. Because we are so grateful to God for all He’s done for us, all His goodness and faithfulness to us, we can’t linger long in our anger. We choose to do good instead, persevering to live a life that is pleasing to Him, the life He has purposed for us, not minding the ugly circumstances of our lives (or not letting them triumph over us).

Do not let your circumstances dictate the quality of your life.*

Seek Light and Beauty

Like the lovely flowers in the meadow which strain to turn toward the sun, let us choose to seek the Lord’s light and beauty, to bask in them, leaving all heaviness and ugliness behind. Surround ourselves with beauty, His free gifts to us, and live as though the burdens don’t affect us. Focus on Jesus, not on the burden.

*Jesus Today by Sarah Young
(Photo from Pinterest).

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Journey with Jesus,

Of Starfishes, Sick Parrots, and Sonship

As you know, friends, the Lord has blessed me with another beautiful gift and that is watercolor painting. Sometime last year, the thought of creating something pleasing to the eyes occurred to me and I thought that watercoloring would not be too physically taxing for my fragile health. And so, I ordered my Royal and Langnickel beginner’s set.

The very first thing I drew and painted was a sparse cluster of morning glory flowers. I was very conscious of exhausting myself (something that really scares me and is hard to recover from) that I couldn’t give it my best: the colors didn’t come out correctly and I didn’t have the energy to work on it longer than was necessary. The result was a sparse cluster of — starfish crawling on purple petals! I could see the many flaws but my joy and gratitude to be able to do it in the first place could not be quenched. Until Felix saw it.

My very first water-colour project that looked like starfishes crawling on purple petals.

The pitiful morning glory flowers I first painted.

eagle head

My water-colour panting of an eagle head where I wrote Isaiah 43:31.

bluejay

The admired bluejay.

UPDATE: My first 4 serious watercolor paintings.

UPDATE: My first 4 serious water-colour paintings ready for framing.

UPDATE: My first poppy collection.

UPDATE: My first poppy collection.

UPDATE: My latest project.

UPDATE: My latest project.

I eagerly showed it to him when he arrived from the office, expecting that he’d be happy for me that I was painting with joy instead of miserably suffering in my bed-bound state. But, friends, he criticized my work so severely that I was seriously hurt. Yes, he saw the “starfishes”, too, and didn’t have any qualms in mentioning them. When he left the room, I cried for my wounded pride, for his insensitivity, and for his not seeing and understanding the things that matter to me. (My husband is not even an artist).

But that is not the real subject of this post :) .

I continued to paint and the Lord continued to add strength to me. Gradually, I improved my craft. My husband’s hurtful criticisms were so ingrained in my mind that they helped drive me to do better. I had that full intent in my heart to show him that those unfortunate morning glory flowers weren’t my maximum potential. I knew there was something more beautiful, more wonderful coming up of which I could yet praise God even more.

But that wasn’t only the reason why I stayed the course. I enjoy what I’m doing. It gives me something to eagerly look forward to. The inspiration and exercise not only bring me joy but I believe, even healing as well. Watercolor painting is therapeutic to say the least.

So, I continued to polish my work. I had become more meticulous in mixing my colors and learned some techniques watching videos on YouTube. The rest I left it to instinct.

Through the course of a few months, I had painted calla lilies, tulips, strawberries in the vine, orange jubilee flowers, a bowl of apples, a branch of blueberries, a manger, cascading wisteria, a tree (an illustration of Psalm 1), sunflowers, peony spray, lotus, peach roses, an eagle head (an illustration of Isaiah 40:31), and recently (just before this writing), a bluejay perched on a branch (an illustration of Lamentations 3:22-23).

Beginning with the third painting, Felix began to admire my work. There’s still a lot of room for improvement but I’m thankful that the Lord Jesus continues to pour out inspiration on me: my romance with watercolor painting deepens each day and blossoms so sweetly that my life is certainly more vibrant and colourful than ever before! Isn’t our Lord and Savior wonderful?

When Felix saw the bluejay, he commented, “It looks so alive.”

Grinning with pleasure, I asked, “You really think so?” He nodded his assent.

“It’s no longer a ‘sick parrot’? So, I’m already far removed from that sick parrot of grade 2?” I insisted as he continued to gaze at my painting. He knows the story.

Well, there should be a world of improvement from my drawing and crayon-coloring of parrot in grade 2 to my 48-year-old watercoloring self! That was practically another generation!

When I was in grade 2, I was entered in an art contest by our school where we competed with other schools in our town. I know now why they chose me: my father was a known fine artist in our town (one or two of his commissioned works, oil paintings, reached even the USA) and maybe they thought that I inherited his artistic prowess and also because I was an honor student.

A drawing of a parrot in all its bright orange-and-green plumage was pasted on the blackboard. It was to be our model.

After the contest, our works were judged and I learned that I came fourth. But there was quite a stir as my Lola Atring (my grandmother’s sister), an elementary teacher at the time, vehemently disputed with the judges that I should be placed second. They argued back that my parrot looked sick to which my fastidious-yet-with-a-remarkable-sense-of-humor lola replied with pride, “Well, who can readily draw a sick parrot among you?”

When this story was told to my father (by the said lola, no less!), I remember him smiling, followed by his deep-throat chuckle. He didn’t reprimand me for my poor performance.

As for my part, I couldn’t care less. I was too young! Maybe I didn’t have a competitive bone in my body then when it came to art, much less an artistic bone! I didn’t have to inherit my father’s artistic ability, did I? I didn’t have to be like him, completing his first oil painting on canvas at 15 or 17 (?). I didn’t have to accomplish what he had accomplished. I was my own person, still learning to pursue my heart’s desires.

This may well be true and in practice in our families today. But should it be the same with our sonship (daughtership) with God?

The Lord Jesus consistently showed His intimate relationship with the Father when He walked on earth. He was never far from the Father’s presence. He Himself testified that He did what He saw the Father do.

Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. 20 For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel. 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will. (John 5:19-21)

The Lord Jesus exemplified to us how to act as true children of God, how to live out our sonship (or daughtership): It is to do what our Father does and follow His ways and not our own. To be conformed to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ (see Rom. 8:29) for He and the Father are one. What He told and showed us to do – to worship God in spirit and in truth, to love as He loved us, to heal, to pray, to share the Gospel, and many other things – that we should do. So that we are truly sons and daughters of the Father in heaven.

Who we are, what we do –  should not be different from Him. We are to be partakers of His divine nature (see 2 Pet. 1:4).

We are to reflect our Savior’s light and beauty, awakening in His likeness (see Psalm 17:15).

As long as the branch is attached to the Vine, the very life of the Vine flowing to it, it will be one with the Vine, all its parts bearing the appearance of it. A grapevine will produce grapes and not another.

I am a daughter of God and my desire is to be like my Father, bearing His Spirit, His life flowing in and through me, my life a shining testimony to that.

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Journey with Jesus,

 

 

Quiet Places

After a whole year of recovering and settling back into my old normal (no more daily hard struggles between life and the shadow of death), the Lord filled me with so much joy and blessings, both tangible and intangible, that I realized one day I wanted to dance and twirl and laugh and shout in happiness and thanksgiving. He has blessed me beginning on my birthday in October (I was able to get up and get dressed and join the family in our simple celebration). Then there was the birthday of my son Tim in early December. Although uninvited 😀 (but I was grateful they came!), my sister and niece traveled from the province to celebrate with him, together with my brother. We had a little party. We laughed and took photos and videos. I had the stamina to enjoy all that.

quiet places

A few days before Christmas was my husband’s birthday. I donned on a new white flowy shirt and a new maxi dark denim skirt (these articles of clothing had been in my closet for months waiting for me to be well enough to wear them) and had a decent photo of myself taken (after a very long time!). It makes me happy when I am able to play dress up, put on a little makeup and have my photo taken :). For me it’s a testimony of God’s enduring mercies.

So we set up the table – placed my gold-leafed, alabaster and crystal candlestick (a Christmas gift from hubby which he bought from our favorite antiques/secondhand shop) with a tall, slim gold candle regally standing on top and a vase of deep-red roses. We brought out the only-for-special-occasion China and colored glasses. And so we celebrated my husband’s birthday in love, thanksgiving, and joy.

On Christmas Eve, I was able to go out to our living room and celebrated with family until the wee hours of the morning. We set up our formal dining table regally (although we ended up eating in the living room :D). We took photos and selfies (groupies?) and opened gifts. On Christmas morning, we had “boodle brunch”. We laid banana leaves on the table, arranged fried rice, boiled greens and veggies, and 4 kinds of salted, dried seafood. And so we celebrated Christmas Day.

During the holidays, the kids and I baked sugar cookies (yes, I can bake again!) in the shapes of J-O-Y and stars and snowflakes and decorated them with royal icing and gold and silver beads. Hubby had to travel to Mandaluyong, 2 cities away from our place, to buy the beads (the cookies were serious business!). And on New Year’s Eve, I wasn’t fighting between life and death, but watched the fireworks in our yard that hubby lit up.

These all seem ordinary to people who are not ill, but for me, it’s a tremendous blessing! Actually, other people’s reality is my wildest dreams! People who regularly read my stories on my blog may say, “How could she be so grateful in the midst of all her trials?” Well, it’s a case of the “half-full/half-empty glass” again. I don’t even see myself as half-full, but full! The Lord Jesus Christ fills my cup! And that was why I felt like shouting on the housetops! As my Tim says, “You feel so excited it’s like you want to pee already!”

But I sense deep within me that the Holy Spirit is whispering, “Come away. Retreat from all the noise of the world.” (That means my FB world which is the only secular world I know considering that I can’t go out). I have been sensing that admonition for months, to step back and let not myself be drenched with so much secularism, even only via FB, and be immersed with spiritual things instead. And though it’s quite hard to avoid communicating via FB, I’m heeding the Lord’s voice.

Sobering things come to temper our “loudness” (because maybe we think we’re giving God all the glory but are actually sharing in the limelight). In such times, I’m always reminded by the collectedness of Mary. In the midst of the frenzy of Jesus’ birth – the shepherds rushing to the site to worship the Baby King and telling everyone how His birth and purpose had been announced by an angel from heaven – the Bible says that Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).

There is a time to shout out our praises and thanksgiving to all the world; and there is a time to keep them all in our heart and ponder them. There is a time to waltz in our triumphs; and there is a time to step back and relish quiet moments with the Lord. He is whispering, Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31).

The Holy Spirit whispers and invites us to retreat and come away with Him to quiet places where our souls are refreshed anew, drinking in the spring of water welling up to eternal life (see John 4). Far from the madding crowd, we can hear and discern more clearly God’s voice and what He wants to tell us. We can better see the path He’s laying out before us. In the quiet place where the Lord Jesus meets with us, we can prove His acceptable and perfect will for us:

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Rom. 12:2)

In those quiet places, we can spend time in retrospection, enough to learn from the lessons of the recent past, and be guided not to repeat the same mistakes in the future. It is a time of self-examination and drawing nearer to God through worship, prayer, and the Word, and baring our heart and soul before Him (He knows our hearts better than we do).

In that place where we give of our whole selves, we not only immerse into deeper communion with God, but we also find rest for our weary souls and bodies as we breathe Him freely and lavishly and exhale the world’s toxicity. We let our soul and senses absorb God’s gifts around us – the cheerful warbling and flitting of birds among the trees, the gentle breeze that caresses our skin, the blades of grass that tickle our bare feet, the sheer quietness of our surroundings we can almost hear the bugs crawling!

And we would feel once again the fierce, undying love of Jesus like a tight embrace.

(Photo credit: Tamzinsketchbook via Flickr and Pinterest).

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Nurturing Self

I am not writing about how to pamper ourselves because the world is so full of that already. We read it in a cornucopia of self-help books and websites and we see it in heavy doses in ads and even on our FB feeds as friends share the different ways they pamper themselves. The idea to write about this came as I observed how the Holy Spirit has been whispering into my heart about how I have been caring or not caring for myself. The whispers come like an angel’s breath when I’m resting my ailing body. I have come to understand from these I-rest-and-He-speaks times that the Lord is so compassionate He wants us to care for ourselves wholly.

nurturing_self

The Lord does command, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). Denying oneself means turning away from the things of this world: secular pleasures and pursuits, the things that could bring fleeting happiness but are not aligned with God’s will and won’t earn us treasures in heaven. Even careers, jobs, wealth, dreams, plans — the Lord may desire us to give them all up for His kingdom. For those in the household of faith, we have crosses to carry as we follow the Shepherd of our souls. And by His grace, we will faithfully take them up.

But He does invite us to rest, too. He says, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31). Years ago, I understood the Lord’s compassion, His desire for us to be cared for, especially when we’re weak and recovering. In Mark chapter 5, we read the story of Jairus and her sick daughter. The Lord raised her up and instructed that something should be given her to eat. Also, in the story of Feeding the Five Thousand, he didn’t want to send the multitude away hungry. So, He fed them with fish and bread that He multiplied miraculously.

The Lord wants us to care for ourselves both with rest and nourishment.

The Lord Jesus and His disciples came to the home of Martha and Mary. Martha, anticipating that dinner must be served to her very important as well as tired and hungry visitors, fussed in the kitchen, cooking up a storm while her sister Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, enrapt as she listened to the Messiah. Martha complained to the Lord, but the Lord rebuked her gently, pointing out to her that Mary had chosen “that good part” and it wouldn’t be taken away from her (see Luke 10:38-42).

The Lord wants us to nurture ourselves with His eternal words. He wants us to draw close to Him, be still before Him, and listen to His voice. For “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Mat. 4:4).

To pamper is “to treat with excessive indulgence”, while to nurture is “to feed and protect; to support and encourage, help develop, cultivate; to bring up, train, educate.”

The Lord wants us to nurture ourselves, not only our families, so that we can be shining vessels for Him, a sanctuary of His Holy Spirit.

Physical Nurturing

I need to rest my body many times a day. Even though I don’t do any heavy tasks, I still need to cease from all work — whether writing, reading, assisting my children with their lessons, watercolor painting, etc. Often, my body touches the bed with a terrifying need to recover. I lie very still and concentrate on breathing. If I can, I fasten my mind onto thoughts that would distract me from focusing on my suffering; otherwise, I just say Hallelujah! in my mind in rhythm with my heartbeat. Thankfully, in less than an hour, everything within me settles into a blissful calm and warmth. That should be the fruit of resting in the Lord. For He said, “You will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Mat. 11:29-30).

These are the times I’ve been hearing the Holy Spirit whisper. He tells me that it’s okay to linger in that rest and savor the steady rhythm of breathing the Lord has blessed me with after a hard struggle. To rest is a command. Don’t be guilty about it. Remember the Lord sleeping soundly in the boat while they are tossed about by strong winds and waves. A restful nap is truly nurturing.

If I could I would love to make regular walks around our village. I would choose the back streets parallel to the creek. Maybe I would do that in the afternoons before the sun goes down. In my mind, I know how refreshing daily walks could be as my spirit relishes nature around me. Soon, I hope and pray.

Mental and Emotional Nurturing

For the sick and suffering, peace of mind and heart is hard to come by. That is why I strongly believe that mental and emotional health is tied up with our spiritual state. If our spiritual life is in the pink of health, mental and emotional soundness follows. Let our minds dwell on warm, loving thoughts — God’s Word brings them out — and not on fears, guilt, or self-condemnation. The beautiful words of Philippians 4: 8 begin with Whatever things are true…meditate on these things. Whatever the Word tells us about who we are in Christ, that is truth. It is only in the atmosphere of the Savior’s love and joy that nurturing occurs deep within us.

I have found the value of simply playing with the kids. We tell silly stories and jokes and we laugh freely. I believe it is in that place, delightfully wedged between the love and giggles and chatter that even my 48-year-old heart blooms. Don’t try to eschew the fun times you can spend with the kids, thinking that you have better things to do. Didn’t the Lord say, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mat. 18:3)?

Reading, writing, and now, watercolor painting, are a few of the many gifts I’m grateful for everyday. These activities are therapeutic. Nurturing.

I love gardening. If I could only go out there and turn up dirt, deadhead, water, apply fertilizer — just touching and caring for those living things in the plant kingdom — it would be like a slice of heaven. But I can’t, so I drew up a plan like a good landscaping artist does. The old garden clutter was replaced with slate and pebble paths and a zen water feature in a corner. There’s still lots to be done, but gardening, like life, is a process, not a one-time affair.

A library and a garden are havens for the soul, don’t you think so?

Spiritual Nurturing

If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you know that essays that point to spiritual nurturing are all I write about. Praise, prayer, the Word — you know the drill. But I counsel you to pray beyond the rote kind of prayer. Drench your life with prayer. You can never overpray. When suddenly at dawn you awake, there must be a reason. Sing praises to God in your heart. And pray your special petitions. You can go back to sleep afterwards.

In the mornings, before you latch your mind to your plans and open your gadgets, spend time with God until you feel full and have received the blessing to face the day. Nurturing our souls first and foremost is what equips us for life’s daily battles. When we are steeped with faith, fear is far away. Fear shrinks our spirits while the steadfast love of our Savior makes us grow and flourish. So, be a branch that is firmly attached to the Vine.

(All definitions from thefreedictionary.com; photo courtesy of Perla Frisberg).

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Life in Trickles

Life flowing in trickles. That would be mine. When inspiration to write about this bathed me, the vision of stalactites came to mind and adhered. I plumbed my brain as to why the thought of stalactites would attach itself to the essay forming in my mind. I gathered some interesting facts. But first, this: In Baguio City where I went to college (some two decades ago!), there are numerous mines and caves, that’s why one of the many course offerings of Saint Louis University is Mining Engineering. I also had roommates in the dorm whose fathers worked in the mines. There was a popular question that circulated among the Mining Engineering students: “What is the difference between a stalactite and a stalagmite?” I deduced the answer on my own by attributing stalagmite to a mite, an inhabitant of the earth. Therefore, stalactites are the ones found protruding from the roof of caves and mines, while stalagmites are the deposits that form at the bottom floor. And I was right :).

According to Encyclopaedia Brittanica:

Stalactites are elongated forms of various minerals deposited from solution by slowly dripping water. They hang like icicles from the ceiling or sides of a cavern.

The dominant mineral in such deposits is calcite (calcium carbonate), and the largest displays are formed in caves of limestone and dolomite. Other minerals that may be deposited include other carbonates, opal, chalcedony, limonite, and some sulfides.

Conditions that favour the deposition are: (1) a source rock above the cavern; (2) downward percolation of water supplied from rain; (3) tight but continuous passageways for this water, which determine a very slow drip; and (4) adequate air space in the void to allow either evaporation or the escape of carbon dioxide from the water, which thus loses some of its solvent ability.

Wow. As I read and reread that last part, it dawned on me how the Holy Spirit had led me into writing this with the vision of the stalactites. As the words above arranged themselves, forming a beautiful analogy to my life now, I realized that it was, indeed, the Holy Spirit who had been speaking into my heart and guiding me. That amazes me more than anything else. To know that the Lord would take time to shower us with inspiration to break through our daily monotony (and our doubts!), to participate in our humble undertakings and let us know and feel that He delights in us! —- that, to me, is a most awesome blessing, a huge encouragement, especially considering my bedridden state.

I trained my eyes on the paragraph Conditions that Favor the Deposition (you may go back up and read it again :) ) and this was the analogy I saw with my life right now: 1) There’s a source Rock above (the Lord Jesus Christ); 2) There’s a downward supply of water from heaven (the Living Water); 3) There’s a very slow drip because of tight but continuous passageways (the tests and refining); 4) There’s an adequate air supply (life).

Isn’t it amazing? I can see those “conditions” being met in my life and yes, I am like those stalactites. If your life flows in slow drip, too – that is, fulfilment of dreams and plans and actual accomplishments come in trickles – then, be inspired by these analogies just as I am! 

As mentioned above, stalactites are basically made up of calcium salts. You may remember the Lord’s words: You are the salt of the earth. I’d like to see it this way: As the stalactites are natural deposits of salts, so are we in the world. But there are other minerals that form stalactitic deposits such as opal and chalcedony. Chalcedony is the third foundation of the new city, the New Jerusalem as described in Revelation 21. The polished blue chalcedony is like the sky, ethereal and endless. And it is said of opal: All of Nature’s splendour seems to be reflected in the manifold opulence of fine Opalsfire and lightnings, all the colours of the rainbow and the soft shine of far seas.*

Years ago while I was reading through Isaiah in bed, with the same ailing and suffering self as I am today, the 54th chapter captured my heart. I felt like it was spoken to me personally, a love letter from God. I pressed the Bible to my chest as I savored the words. (I did not post the whole chapter here):

“For the mountains shall depart
And the hills be removed,
But My kindness shall not depart from you,
Nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,”
Says the Lord, who has mercy on you.

11 “O you afflicted one,
Tossed with tempest, and not comforted,
Behold, I will lay your stones with colorful gems,
And lay your foundations with sapphires.
12 I will make your pinnacles of rubies,
Your gates of crystal,
And all your walls of precious stones. (Is. 54:10-12)

The Lord will build my house (my life) with colorful gems and precious stones! For indeed He has promised to make all things beautiful in His time! Like the beauty and grandeur of the stalactites made up of opal and chalcedony! This is a metaphor of God’s beautiful work in our lives.

The lives of other Christians are like streams of water, gushing and flowing forth in copious amounts, like a swarm of soldiers charging to battle. But I am seeing it now with new eyes: whether a life flows plentifully or in  trickles, God is able to use both for His kingdom and glory. In the Body of Christ, not only the physically strong and able are given honor, but look what the apostle Paul says:

On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty. (1 Cor. 12:22-23 ESV)

Prior to the verses above, Apostle Paul talks about the importance of each member of the body (he was speaking metaphorically of the Church, the Body of Christ). The feet, which can be considered as powerful members of the body since they enable it to go anywhere it pleases, cannot boast to the hand. So even if we can’t use our feet (permanent or temporary disability) to go and share the Gospel to every creature, God uses our other members, such as the hand, to carry out His purposes. In the Body of Christ, no one is really worthless.

My life, being bed-bound, may be hard. But the inspiration and beauty that God pours into it evoke praise and thanksgiving. This ability to face life’s painful tests and challenges with a positive outlook comes from God Himself and not from my own strivings. I call it God-breathed strength and inspiration. My life is held by these. Hallelujah!

When your life flows in trickles (when it seems like you’re not accomplishing anything of great meaning or magnitude but only little things that seem inconsequential), bathe it with gratitude. When you want to walk but can’t make a single step; when you want to sing praise but there’s just not enough strength; when your fondest dreams remain locked up in your heart — focus your eyes on the small miracles, the little gifts of inspiration scattered all around you. Then let your thanksgiving to God flow.

To compare my life with the splendid stalactites is uplifting, but my everyday is defined more appropriately by the following verse:

The full soul loatheth an honeycomb;
but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet. (Prov. 27:7)

When I shared this verse with my husband, tears spurted from my eyes. These, too, nourish the hungry soul.

*Quoted from the International Colored Gemstone Association.

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All the Love and the Joy

Mango.ph sent me an email regarding their end-of-summer sale, all items 50% off except for new arrivals. This online store has become our family’s favorite. (Although their prices are generally exorbitant, when they have a sale, usually 50-70% off, the prices become lower than local brands’. Needless to say, we only shop during a sale :) ). I am grateful for online stores, especially the local ones. Since I can’t remember the last time that I was able to go to the mall and shop, online stores are a great help.

So, I started to shop for the kids’ clothing. But because Hannah, now 14, is not a kid anymore (and her size is definitely adult’s), I buy her clothes from the women’s section. I didn’t have any intentions of buying anything for myself. Although I love fashion (now only the simple and modest kind), how could I get myself to buy something when I’m bedbound and can’t even pluck my stray eyebrows? Even with my illness, when I’m feeling well, I want to dress up. It feels good to be scrubbed clean, look well and  radiant.

But when I saw the yummy blouses that were now priced low, sadness and heaviness crept into my heart. Again.

Enduring an illness that doesn’t want to budge brings an ingrained heaviness to my spirit that, I’m just realizing now, has already become a part of my system. There are glimpses of joy and inspiration – open windows to a beautiful earth, like running through a meadow, chasing butterflies and dragonflies, a child again – but otherwise, the days are peppered with groaning and the exhalations come out as sighings.

Even if you have a treasure trove of memories of a once-carefree life – of climbing blackberry trees and picking sun-hardened carabao dung in summer, of catching mudfish when fields overflowed in rainy months and grilling them over hot coals, of smelling the delicious aroma of ripe guavas simmering in thick coconut milk on quiet, slumbrous afternoons – prolonged illness and suffering can snuff all that wonder and your focus narrows down to your difficult circumstances.

What you suffer, it becomes your world, your life, and you forget how it is like to walk in full strength and happiness – to run, to leap, to twirl, to dance and laugh freely. In the bed of languishing, you forget those, how they feel like. And thinking about them, obsessing over them, makes the hunger deeper and more intense.

So, you don’t only endure suffering, you live it – physically, mentally, emotionally.

The time that I was shopping online, I was also reading a novel on Kindle, alternating the two tasks (what, you do that, too? 😀 ). I read something that instantly inspired me. The words were fresh and had a life all their own. And I saw that open window again, of a bright hope, like a meadow shining under the summer sun, of desiring to heal fully and live fully, of shedding all sickness, suffering, and sorrow, of believing again, of seeing oneself in a different place (far from the old, miserable rut), of being able and courageous to reach that place in the land of the happy, healthy living!

I grasped that ray of light and desired so much to live differently. Even if the illness and suffering are still present, I desire to choose joy rather than sorrow. I desire to embrace wellness in spirit rather than heaviness. I desire to walk a different path. Even though my illness still tries to oppress me, I will refuse to be oppressed! I will refuse to be miserable.

So, with warm cotton candy colors floating in my mind, of thoughts of being healed and fully recovered and walking and traveling again, of testifying and soul-winning, I raised my hand in prayer and told the Lord about them. Then I picked a flowy, long sleeves peach blouse (that reminded me of leisurely walks along sunny harbors, licking on ice cream in a cone) and a hot pink cotton casual top for myself from the Mango online store and added them to my cart. I was happy not because I had new tops. I was happy because I had found a new lighted path on which to walk on, a fresh take on faith just like Hebrews 11:1 describes: Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

It’s catching the shower of love and joy that falls like confetti from heaven.

Why do many of us insist on carrying our burdens alone, hauling them as we trudge through life, their weight bearing down on us until we are stooped? The Lord invites us to come to Him, to lay down all our burdens, and He will give us rest. And although we may have been doing just that, coming to Him and begging Him to take them all away, we may still refuse to let go or to feel unburdened. We may still insist on feeling burdened and stooped.

The fear, when you’re sick and suffering, is multifaceted. You don’t only experience it, you think it. It oppresses not only your body but your mind. You worry about tomorrow, about your family, about many things that you are unable to do. This is not unnecessary worrying, nor imagined. It is a product of being ill and being uncertain of the future. But what is the powerful, living Word of God if it can’t silence those nagging fears?

Faith is fastening oneself onto the Word, of fully believing and trusting that it can deliver and will deliver.

We can cease thinking that we are unloved or loved less by God (just because we can’t seem to see or experience it in our lives) by believing His Word. If He said He has loved us with an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3), then we must take His Word for it. The dictionary defines everlasting as “lasting forever; never coming to an end; eternal”. God said that’s how He has loved us. We must rest in that truth.

As for the ceaselessly bearing of our burdens, the Savior has already borne them.

Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.

…And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. (Is. 53: 4, 5, 6)

He took them all upon His body when he offered His life on the cross so we won’t have to bear them anymore. We must learn to abide in this truth. We can rest in God’s Word and promises to do the healing, liberating, and restoring while we catch all the love and the joy He showers on us.

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Learning the Secret {Understanding Philippians 4: 11-13}

I have one memory of childhood that I have not forgotten all these years. And now that I am bedbound and unable to go out and see the outside world, this memory comes to me more often.

When I was about 6 or 7 years old, I played in our neighbor’s spacious backyard together with my siblings, cousins, and other kids from around the neighborhood. I think the family, the owner of the property where we played, had already left for the States by then, for I can’t remember playing with their kids at this time, or being shy encountering the older ones. So, only the caretakers occupied the house, and since the backyard didn’t have a gate, we went in and out of it at any time of the day.

One afternoon while we played there, I got to be so near a room (this was the back of the house) that I got a glimpse of a very old woman, her face was lined with deep wrinkles, her long hair was grey. She didn’t look at me as I stared through the window, shocked to see her (for I hadn’t seen her nor known of her existence until then). She was sitting at the edge of the bed near the narrow window of a very dark room, staring blankly into space, all light and brightness gone from her mien. I was scared to see her.

Later on, I asked my father (or grandmother, I’m not sure now) who the old woman was and why she didn’t come out of her room all those years that I went to play in their backyard. I learned that she was the grandmother of the family who had gone to the States, and well, she just chose to not venture out of her room for years.

As an active child, I marvelled then why a human being would choose to stay in his/her room and would not want to go out even for a few minutes, and how one could survive such solitude, such lonely life.

In all of my 47 years, with regard to spending time outdoors – soaking up the sun, breathing in fresh air, listening to the warbling of the birds in the trees or the whispering of tall grasses as they sway with the breeze, looking up to an unobstructed view of the azure sky, so vast and deep and endless – my heart has not changed one bit.

No, I’m not here to tell you that being cooped up indoors for months and years is fantastic. But though I have learned to not live my days endlessly grumbling but looking for God’s grace and keeping a grateful heart, I still believe that being able to go out and spend time outdoors is a wonderful blessing. I still think that walking in the sand barefoot, the gentle waves lapping at my feet, as I search for unique shells and small sea creatures is an activity that brings me closer to the sweet presence of God, like we are in it together. I can imagine that running in the beach with my kids on either side of me, my hair and long summer dress billowing in the wind, and our laughter ringing out toward the clouds is a celebration of God’s love. For doesn’t the Bible say, Whatever you do, do it unto the Lord…?

But I can’t do those things. I stay in this room and my beautiful thoughts stay in my mind and my fervent desires stay locked up in my heart. But I don’t complain. What do I do? Saint Paul tells us his secret.

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Phil. 4:11-13 ESV)

In our hard places, it is the Lord who gives us strength to still give thanks, have some measure of joy and contentment, and to do things for His Kingdom within the boundaries of our meantime places. In prison, Saint Paul wrote letters to the churches, – teaching, reminding them of the hope of the Gospel, and encouraging them to be steadfast in the faith. Our Church’s beloved workers in the far-flung provinces who suffer hunger either from prolonged fasting or forced fasting (there is lack of food due to hardships) are strengthened to make sacrifices for the Kingdom – praying with tears for the salvation of souls and healing of the sick.

I am strengthened to continue to believe in the goodness of God and to pray unceasingly. The Lord strengthens and inspires me to never stop reading His Word, to meditate on it and journal the things He’s teaching me and share to others. He encourages and inspires me to write for His Kingdom (although I need to rest in between writing paragraphs :) ).

Yes, I can do all things through Him who gives me strength, even in this hard place.

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He Colors My World

I have been used to my world, a world exclusive to those who are suffering: dim, sad, silent. Fortunately, I have been endowed both with introverted and extroverted personality. When I was still working, I utilized the one to succeed in sales and marketing, and the other to enjoy solitude while I reloaded. My introverted personality helped me survive the years of solitude due to my illness and suffering. But at first, the inability to see the outside being bed-bound brought great melancholy. No wonder, after my husband bought me a wheelchair and I was wheeled outside of our room in the Pampanga fasting house, the sight of the azure sky, the trees, and the grass made me sing.

Every time I hear a newborn baby cry or touch a leaf or see the sky
Then I know why – I believe!

There were months that my world got so colorless and quiet with only my silent prayers and praises keeping me company. I would squeeze my eyes tight as I waited hopefully for relief from my suffering. There were seasons I only knew blankness.

When the Lord called me to write, He also gave enough strength for me to be able to do it. A few years later, He inspired me to read encouraging Christian books (when I was saved, I had someone burn all my secular books). And so, even though I haven’t been able to go out for a long time now, the Lord colored my world with words.

Lately, I found myself enjoying socializing via Facebook. After more than a decade of being ill and isolated from the outside world, I felt uneasy to be “out” there again (even though I haven’t left my bedroom). I write on my blogs to draw people nearer to God and encourage other Christians in their walk with the Savior, but I am in that stage of initially testing the waters to be completely open to socializing. There are many, both JMCIM brethren and old friends, who want to come visit. But I say “No”. It’s not that I have become totally antisocial, but my illness hinders me from entertaining visitors.

At times I daydream of welcoming friends at home and sharing to them the Gospel; having coffee or tea with them while enjoying a heartwarming discussion. That would be wonderful and I look forward to the day! In the meantime, the Lord is slowly leading me to be friendly and warm on FB which is the only place I can visit with friends and acquaintances without traveling. Considering my situation, I sometimes feel skittish warming up to old friends and former classmates. Fact is, I go running to the Lord Jesus seeking approval, quietness, and rest when I feel I have been exposed too much :).

In one of those times while I laid myself at His feet, wanting Him to know that my heart has not been stolen by FB, He assured me that He wanted me to be happy and be myself. He spoke in my heart that He gave me friends to color my world, that I should not be afraid. And that He knows that nothing and no one can take His place in my life. He let me know that expanding my territory by forging friendships will enrich my spiritual life. After all, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” as apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 5:6. Or, as Ms. Holly Gerth cutely puts it: “Love is Faith Expressed” or L.I.F.E.

So, how can we show our faith if we are afraid to show our love? Our faith works through love. There is no other way. We thank God for bringing color to our world and we should not be scared to be out there, whether physically or virtually. He holds us and He will never leave our side.

(Photo of Hannah playing Kundansoy during her piano recital at the Meralco Theater).

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