The Meaning and Purpose of Life 2

I had written the same theme a while back, so why is there a need again to write another? Well, I hope it’s not entirely another, but a support of what I had written before. For when you are sick and suffer everyday (and you also see the suffering in the world or among your friends and acquaintances), you can’t help but continue looking for answers and sense, for light, for some understanding, so as to be able to continue trudging through this thing called life. For when you continue to be in the dark and not being able to grasp the meaning and purpose of your existence, it is hard to even face another day. It is hard to plan, to hold joy and hope, and look forward to a bright tomorrow.

LIGHTS. A painting from last year (I wasn't able to paint a new one for the blog theme :( ). My son Tim took the photo of the gladiola in the garden and I painted it. It is now framed and graces the wall near the dining area.

LIGHTS. A painting from last year (I wasn’t able to paint a new one for the blog theme :( ). My son Tim took the photo of the gladiola in the garden and I painted it. It is now framed and graces the wall near the dining area.

So, in the midst of illness, as I struggle against the suffering and go thorough it scared and so uncertain (you never get used to it or become comfortable with it!), questions about the meaning and purpose of life snake in and out of my mind and won’t relent.

Why are we even here when life is rife with hardships and suffering, often senseless and always painful?

Life is short and even shorter for others. You grow, you study, you get a career, you wed, settle and start a family. And in between those stages of life, you may find yourself face down on the dirt, weary, surrendered, riddled with problems, grief and pain, or illness.

In the span of a lifetime, you toil, you do all those for it is what we were taught, and then what? It all comes down to the end, and then what? What was our life? What was it all about?

Was it our stellar career? Was it rearing children that later on became successful in their own right? Was it retiring well, and then comes the end and we close our eyes and open them no more, at least not on this side of life.

Is that, really, the meaning and purpose of life? To be a successful career person, almost-perfect parent, one who saw the beautiful places this world has to offer? Who went on adventures, who enjoyed the best things in life?

What if your career is cut short by an illness? What if your dreams are dashed and your tomorrows are extinguished by, again, illness?

A beloved sister in Christ, the wife of a preacher in our church, went to be with the Lord recently. She was a school teacher and she just finished her master’s degree. She was looking forward to a brighter future in her teaching career, for she loved what she did. Then cancer struck. In that short time between finding her place in this world, working and dreaming and serving the Lord, and then her early passing – there must have been meaning and purpose to it. There must have been. Otherwise, we go back to the same questions.

I used to have a stellar career. I established my own chemicals company and built our office building with a small lab. I married and gave birth to my dream daughter. I honestly thought it was the perfect life, the absolute fulfilment of a dream. I honestly thought this. was. life. That the meaning and purpose of my life was right there in the middle of it all and I was the reigning queen.

When the life and health that I knew and enjoyed disappeared like a thin smoke and the career and dreams going with it, what then is the meaning and purpose of my life?

So, there must be that one thing where we could find the meaning and purpose to life and anchor ourselves wholly to it. For success, adventures, homes, health, relationships, material things – they could all be taken away and what will be left of us? An empty shell that walks like a zombie, a tumbleweed that is driven by the wind in the desolate place?

I refuse to accept that that is all of life. And yet, we go back to the question: Why did God put us here when we would see and experience so much pain and suffering? When we would despair even of life? If He has promised Heaven, and it is what we ultimately look forward to, what are we doing on this earth now? What are we supposed to do here now? For we know that life is short and the good things are not eternal but temporal.

Where can we settle our hearts and be peaceful and hopeful and faithful there?

How can we apply God’s truth to our lives so that we will embrace it as the meaning and purpose of our existence and then be single-minded about it? And then we will learn to live in it and bask in it and grow and be fruitful and flourish in it.

The answer to these questions I wrote in the first part and you can read it here (if you haven’t yet or you would like to be refreshed).

I am taking the meaning and purpose of my life as being a part of God. I am a part of God for He has created me and loved me before the foundation of the world. He has loved me with an everlasting love. A love that has no end. It has been a big problem for me to begin to understand that kind of love or even to fully accept it, especially through long sickness and suffering. I have questioned and doubted it deep in my heart. But if I would start to look at it this way, that God put me into this world to give me life and meaning and purpose and that He will always be with me (because He will not forsake the work of His hand), the heaviness and fears start to be lifted off.

If I believe in the truth that I am a part of Him and can never be separated from Him and therefore He is with me no matter what I go through, then I can begin to settle my whole self – mind, heart, body, soul – to His keeping. For His plan, for His purposes, for His delight. 

So then I could begin to live as His very own no matter where I go. He carries me and I carry Him in my heart. Then I understand that the meaning and purpose of my life is for God to love, to lead, to try, to teach, to bless, to provide for, to enjoy. All for His glory.

“Everyone who is called by My name,
Whom I have created for My glory;
I have formed him, yes, I have made him.” (Is. 43:7)

Then we fulfil the purpose of our creation, of our being here: for His glory. When we live as a part of God and know that we can never be separated from Him and go through life being accessible to Him to guide and love and enjoy, then we do those things that are pleasing in His sight. It will be easier then. We will do it willingly and with gladness. For for Him to enjoy us and delight in us, we must love and adore Him as fervently. 

The meaning and purpose of life is to be wholly God’s and to live in that truth.

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Gratitude and Wonder

I have had more excruciating suffering bouts the past week but I won’t distress you with them. What good would that do? You know what I’m going through and how I cling to my Savior and Healer. I am thankful that joy adamantly adheres to me in spite of the suffering, a staunch ally against it. And I can still see the wonders of everyday, because you see, I have learned to look for the good and the beautiful in the mundane, interspersed with the sufferings, like a bird foraging for food to fill its hunger. And because of that, gratitude still abides in my heart, by God’s grace. For if we can no longer see and appreciate the goodness of God in the land of the living, how can we praise and thank Him? How is He lifted up and glorified in our lives? For we have been created for His glory alone (see Is. 43:7).

gratitude and wonder

Freesia – a painting from early last year.

Another thing, ungratefulness is a fodder for bitterness. And bitterness makes one wretched, one thing the Lord has mercifully taken away from me.

And so today, I will tell of His wonderful works. They may be just small and simple to deserve gracing a magazine, but to me, they are glimpses of my Shepherd’s love and care.

Wonder

The Snow Globe

Felix and Tim went to Shangri-La Mall to buy me silk flowers and toiletries. They came home with my silk roses and peonies and also bottles of floral bath creams – Lily of the Valley, Rose, Freesia, and Blue Porcelain China. Whatever the scent of that last one I have no clue. But the surprise was Tim’s snow globe. He came home carrying a snow globe that he insisted, yes, insisted, that his daddy buy. Tim knows that I have been longing for a snow globe for the longest time (I didn’t know that they are sold here considering that we don’t have winter season).

So Tim showed the snow globe to me and I shared his awe. The inside is a bird perched on a branch and the snow is not plain white dust but they sparkle, like minute glass shards reflecting the sun in its fullness or a star-studded sky in the heart of winter. We both celebrated our finally having a snow globe as we stared at it with the snow falling like magic.

He left it on my book shelf and tries to remember to shake it when he comes to my room for my delight.

The Vending Machine

A machine that vomits soda, coffee, snacks, and even packed sushi and ramen (in Japan) I know, but questions? One day, Tim told me he has a vending machine of questions inside him. He says that when he cranks up this machine, a question rolls out of it and into his mouth, hence, his many, many questions, so myriad I sometimes tell him he’s tiresome (I guess that’s another thing that adults do :( ).

“So, don’t wonder why I have endless questions, Mom, coz I have a vending machine of them inside me and I can’t stop them from spilling out!”

The Piano Duet

During the kids’ school break, we finally found a piano teacher to do private tutorials (they had to stop for a  year as we looked for a good music school nearby but couldn’t find one). During the lull, they both turned to learning and playing the uke. They are now both adept with it. But Felix and I wanted them to continue learning the piano. The private tutorials are proving to be successful. When cousins from San Diego came to visit in July, they had at least learned a duet and entertained our guests after a sumptuous lunch of seafoods.

One night recently after dinner in our dining room (for years we ate in our bedroom extension on a 30″ by 40″ table), they practiced their new duet. Felix turned my wheelchair around so I’d be facing the piano. So, there we were, our family gathered in our living room as music played in our home once again. I relished the moment and gratitude filled my heart, forgetting for a time (though short) my hardships.

Gratitude

The Buyers

I’m blessed by the buyers of our online thrift store via IG. For my American readers, the Philippines is an archipelago, that is, a group of islands scattered all over the country. There are three main islands – Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao. Luzon, especially Metro Manila, is the heart of the country. It is the main island. It is where the big cities, hotels, shopping malls, businesses, skyscrapers, best schools and universities, and all important government offices and agencies are found. In the US, the states are like small countries in and of themselves, and one can settle in any and still be “in”. Not in the Philippines. As I have already mentioned, Metro Manila is the heart.

In the other two islands, Visayas and Mindanao, they also have cities but they are mostly known for their world-famous beaches and resorts. And although the Philippines is just a fraction of the entire USA in size, those two other islands are quite remote to us who live in Metro Manila and its outskirts.

Imagine my surprise and delight every time people from those places buy from us. They are women – wives, moms, singles – wanting a share of our merchandise, or more accurately, they desire to make their homes beautiful and surround themselves with pretty things – teapots, teacups, porcelain plates, vases, and my paintings! It doesn’t matter to them that they pay shipping fees of courier services, and that, there are some who live too far away from the city or town that the courier service doesn’t even reach their place. They would drive 2 hours to pick up their packages from the nearest branch and another 2 going back.

I’m blessed because these women are like kindred spirits. We all want to make our homes beautiful. I hope and pray that even in this way, God is glorified.

The Paintings

It brings me so much joy and fulfilment that my paintings are appreciated and bought by our IG buyers. Framed originals and gallery wrap canvas prints alike are bought and ordered and I have also began accepting commissions. Oh, please don’t get the wrong picture. I’m not busy as a bee for I. Can’t. Do. That. I only paint when I am well and just for an hour or so. But still, these things bring meaning to my life and I only have the Lord Jesus Christ to thank for.

One time as I was staring at a work-in-progress painting of a pink rose bush, I whispered a prayer: Lord Jesus, though sometimes I err and have shortcomings, please don’t take this away from me.

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Healer of Hearts

Meditating on Psalm 147.

Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving;
Sing praises on the harp to our God,
8 Who covers the heavens with clouds,
Who prepares rain for the earth,
Who makes grass to grow on the mountains.
9 He gives to the beast its food,
And to the young ravens that cry. (vv. 7-9)

In this psalm, the psalmist once again praises the glory, grace, and goodness of God. There are many things going on in this psalm, but I’d like us to bring our focus on this:

He heals the brokenhearted
And binds up their wounds. (v. 3)

This has been our running theme in recent posts – how that the Lord weaves a beautiful love story in our lives if only we give ourselves wholly to Him. The above verse gave a name to my story. Before I gave my life to Jesus, broken in body, heart, and spirit, I never thought that He alone could heal my brokenness and bind up my gaping wounds. The devil is way too cruel to leave you with a flimsy thread of hope of ever mending, once you ventured anywhere near his lair. Like living a life of adultery. You become his. That’s exactly how he left me – helplessly clinging to the thin thread that connected me to whatever was left of my life.

Then Jesus came, with His power, light, and love. I thought I only sought Him for forgiveness of my sins so I could die at peace with God. But there was also hope that maybe He’d be merciful enough to heal my body, too. But He did much more than anything I had hoped for. His grace abounded to me. “…But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Rom. 5:20). He redeemed my soul, cleansed me from the sin of my dark past, restored my family, healed our broken hearts and bound up our wounds.

He can easily do those things in just one stroke of His powerful hand. “He sends out His command to the earth; His word runs very swiftly” (v. 15). And yet, there are still many who don’t want to be anywhere near Him. They insist on seeking cure for their ailments elsewhere, not knowing that it’s probably their souls that were sick and suffering and need healing.

My prayer for the broken is this: That the Savior Jesus Christ be their Redeemer, Healer, Restorer. That He will reign in their hearts and minds and be their Lord and King.

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Journey with Jesus,

Vantage Point

Meditating on Psalm 144:

Blessed be the Lord my Rock…
2 My lovingkindness and my fortress,
My high tower and my deliverer,
My shield and the One in whom I take refuge… (vv. 1-2)

David begins this psalm, like most of the others he’d written, with praise. He had experienced first-hand God’s mighty deliverance over and over again as he went to battle against his foes. From the very first day that he stepped on the battleground to take on Goliath, without armor and shield but only his sling – he had trusted fully in the living God. He had seen how God gave him strength to kill the wolves and bears that attacked the flock he tended with only his bare hands. His faith in God enabled him to convert those episodes of victory on the hills to the battlefield, toppling kings and princes of the heathen nations in his wake.

Surely, if we allow God in all areas of our lives – marriage, family, motherhood, work, etc. – He will show Himself mighty to us, too. If we run to Him, bearing our problems, broken hearts, sick bodies, unquiet minds, and all our other urgent petitions – He will also become to us a refuge, a strong tower, a mighty fortress, our deliverer, healer, shield, problem-solver, provider. He will become to us our everything as David had made Him his.

Lord, what is man, that You take knowledge of him?
Or the son of man, that You are mindful of him?
4 Man is like a breath;
His days are like a passing shadow. (vv. 3-4)

Because of the Lord Almighty’s wondrous work in David’s life, he couldn’t help but marvel, “What is man that you’re mindful of him?” Because of the mighty deeds of the Lord in his life that were magnified many times over, David saw himself as small, a mere mortal. Though a mighty warrior, he possessed the heart of a humble servant and took the posture of complete humility before God. From this vantage point, he was able to see the highness, the majesty, the excellency of God as against his humanity.

This passage got me to thinking: It is because of where we have put ourselves that sometimes our vantage points propel us to demand of God, put the blame on Him when things don’t go our way, or even accuse Him when bad things happen. I know there are people who treat God as if He owed them anything! I think this is a most unfortunate place to be: to think that God only exists to wait on us at our beck and call. But if we shift our positions and take that low place, we will be able to see and appreciate what God is really doing in our lives. That He is actually at work for all of us, for all of humanity, 24/7.

If we have allowed Him into our lives and walk with Him everyday, we will be in that position to praise and glorify Him and be in awe of His salvation, deliverance, healing, and miracles. And you know what? We will know what David had known all along:

Happy are the people who are in such a state;
Happy are the people whose God is the Lord! (v. 15)

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God’s Treasury

When you pray, what do you imagine? I mean, for those Christians who worship the one true living God in spirit and in truth and not before an image. When you close your eyes tightly and focus on your prayers, what does your mind imagine, if it does at all. When I am desperate to reach the throne of grace and really want to give glory to the Lord in my thanksgiving and reach Him through my prayers, I do my best to imagine the throne room. As I give glory or implore Him with my supplications, eyes tightly closed, I imagine Him in His throne in all His glory: lifted high, bright white clouds covering the place, magnificent colors of the rainbow and reflections of brilliant precious stones emanating from the throne, the floor like a sea of glass, with thunderings and lightnings.

But try as I might, my imaginations are so limited. So, often, I just imagine the King of kings and the Lord of lords before me, bright as the sun. Though even in my mind, I cannot see His face. I imagine Him standing in front of me, listening to my words. If we really believe that the Lord is real and He lives, our prayers also become so alive. We are not talking to an impotent image made by man’s hands, but to the One who has all the power and might to move heaven and earth on our behalf! We worship God and give Him glory even though we cannot see Him. For all He’s doing in our lives, we lift up our praise to Him. For we know that every blessing we receive, even those hard graces which later turn out into greater blessings, comes from His hand.

Like me, you may also be in that place of waiting. Waiting for answer to our earnest prayers, for fulfilment of our deepest desire. And at times, we may grow faint in giving Him glory as we nurse our gloomy hearts. But when we look around us, at the things that have always been there but have been rarely noticed, we see the glory of God. And if our hearts are humble enough to let ourselves be caught in awe of what the Lord is showing us, we will be gripped in the beauty of His creation. Through these unexpected gifts, He will fill us with joy and we will be comforted right in our sparse places.

One time as I was scrolling down my FB newsfeed, I saw beautiful photos of God’s creation which were just uploaded by a brother in Christ. He and his companions were foraging the beautiful coral which emerged out of the waters on a low-tide morning. Our church’s outreach station in San Fernando, La Union is near the beach and how wondrous is it to walk on the coral barefoot, admiring the vibrant plethora of life hiding there! What I wouldn’t give to be there, walking, examining, and touching those beautiful living things God created!

I gazed at the photos longingly, yet, the Lord was filling my heart with joy and inspiration. Things like these, which our senses can feast upon, give us hope and inspiration to continue walking in faith. The King gives us glimpses of His glory through His creation. That day, on a quiet after-Christmas morning, in a place hundreds of miles away from the beach, I received God’s unexpected gift.

God’s treasury is full of good and perfect gifts. He sends out showers to make His children’s hearts glad. And because He’s the gift-giver, I will not lose hope in receiving the gift I so desire – my healing. Someday soon.

 Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea?
or hast thou walked in the search of the depth?

Where is the way where light dwelleth?
and as for darkness, where is the place thereof,

Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow?
or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail,

Hath the rain a father?
or who hath begotten the drops of dew?
Out of whose womb came the ice?
and the hoary frost of heaven, who hath gendered it? (selected verses from Job 38)

(Photos courtesy of Brother Philip Delmendo).

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Journey with Jesus,