Living Life in the Hard

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

hard places

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

wisteria wall

“Wisteria” walls of our bedroom.

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Home 2

Home is where I’ve been and where I am at these many years. To be always home and unable to go anywhere else is not so bad, if you learn to accept the things that you don’t have the power to change. The secret is to learn to settle down and still be able to see the good things God is doing. Even in your small, limited world. Even in a few thousands square foot of ground.

home 2

When you’re unable to go anywhere else, you’ll be glad there is home. There is always home. The prodigal son learned this the painful way. And yet, home is where he found himself again.

We recently painted the outside walls with the faintest beige, almost an eggshell white when the sun shines on it, and the ironworks with warm sepia (well, that’s what I want to call it because it’s one of my favorite colors in my watercolor palette). When Felix brought home a color chart from the paint manufacturer, all three of us (me and the two kids) got so excited we each chose a color for our own bedrooms. Tim chose baby blue for his, telling us that the cream paint is already stained and that he wanted blue so much anyway and begged, “Please, please, please!” while jumping up and down with excitement. The daddy was silent for a while for he only planned to have the outside walls painted.

But then I ohhed and ahhed at the delicate Wisteria color, almost ethereal in my eyes, and I asked the husband, “Wouldn’t that be lovely for our room?” (Hannah wasn’t about to be left behind. She chose a very faint mint it almost looks like mist).

My poor husband was overpowered and ended up hiring four painters and bringing home gallons upon gallons of paint the colors of cotton candy (for the inside walls, that is, living, dining, and up to the family room, were painted light peach).

For a few weeks now, I stare at the blank Wisteria walls. The frames had not been re-hung for I gave instructions that the holes where thick nails had been bored be covered without any trace. They are now a blank canvas waiting to be adorned. I dream to paint wisteria on 12″ x 16″ watercolor paper, soon I hope, when I’m stronger (and feeling more confident).

In the late afternoons, when the sun is on the other side of the house and not peeking through the windows, the wisteria walls turn into a grey-lavenderish hue, like a smoke passing through.

I look, I observe, I hang my head at a certain angle, trying to capture something from the silence or the space that is all around me. My soul is trying to whisper, “God, where are You in all this? Is it only these walls and nothing else or am I too sentimental to think that You are trying to speak to me through these blank, unadorned walls, through these colors that look like vapor to my eyes? Is there something more, beyond what my eyes can see?”

When the only place you know and revolve around is home, bound by walls and mouldings and French windows and doors, you try to pull the Lord by the arm and invite Him in. Lord Jesus, please, come, sit awhile with me.

I admit I strain to make our home beautiful because it is the only place I can be. But I don’t want it to be only about the material things, the things that my eyes and heart can enjoy. I want it to be transformed into something that could reach and touch my soul. I want it to be a haven for my spirit and weak, ailing body. I want it to be a place for healing.

And that’s why I want to see God in all of it.

I had known the pain and desolation of not being able to see Him everywhere I looked, like He wanted to hide Himself from my vision and avoid the path where I had hoped to catch Him. Job had known this, this pain and hopelessness, ages before I had.

“Look, I go forward, but He is not there,
And backward, but I cannot perceive Him;
When He works on the left hand, I cannot behold Him;
When He turns to the right hand, I cannot see Him. (Job 23:8-9)

I don’t want to go back to that place. It’s a dismal, scary place to be.

What a big difference seeing Him in all things can do!

As summer comes bursting forth with its blustery heat and warm late-afternoon breezes, I sit in our patio and relish everything our garden offers. At this time of the year, the narra tree boasts of a thick canopy of green leaves and each year, I notice it ever expanding. One branch extends toward the patio roof, the tight  weaving of green kissing it and I can see it peeking through the fiber glass.

God is growing every living thing, adorning the deciduous tree with new coat and crown of leaves when its time comes. He’s ever sustaining, nurturing, giving increase. Even without our striving.

For the first time this year, the mango tree is bearing fruit. One branch is stooping low for heaviness of fruit and I wonder, if one is heavy with fruit, the posture is always bowed down low. I want to be like our mango tree.

It’s a day away from Resurrection Sunday as I write this. Our family did not plan to go anywhere during Lent since I couldn’t go with them anyway and the kids are going back to school afterwards (their school year is patterned to that of the USA). White sand beaches and pine trees-cooled lodges are a distant dream, for it would be too painful dwelling on them.

Felix put a big Intex pool in the garden. He bought it before the malls closed up for the Holy Week. Tim couldn’t contain his excitement. A few hours before midnight on Wednesday, when the kids had gone to bed, he went out and painstakingly set it up, the instruction manual spread out before him. Around 1 in the morning, water was already filling it up. Still, he got up early, when the sun had not yet chased away the indigo-tinted morning. He wanted that the pool was full before Tim saw it. Not an easy task since the pool is quite big, a rectangle of blue sitting audaciously on a swath of green.

Home. Home is where the love of the Father resides. Never waning, never leaving, never failing.

“And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours.” (Luke 15:31)

Tim babbles endlessly in the pool for happiness. He’s so excited and happy he won’t stop talking while splashing and swimming. I don’t stop him. I think that if I closed my eyes, it would be the same sound I would hear if we were in the beach or a lodge secluded by evergreens. And all these, every single morsel of it, I gather them like the Israelites of old gathered manna. This here is food for my hungering soul.

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Draw Near

The poem I wrote (below) on Friday last pretty much sums up the theme of my life right now. Though there are still deep desires and longings in my heart that make my soul sad and burdened, I am falling into the practice of drawing ever nearer to God through each day, in worship, in song, in prayer, in writing, through the Word, and in my thoughts. If the Bible says that when we draw near to God, He draws near to us (see James 4:8), then it is a promise that I would like to claim. We just need to be intentional and diligent about it. Whether we are drawn in our fervent love and devotion to Him or in our desperation, we do it and that is a good thing. But when it comes down to it, it is really the Lord Jesus’ love stirring us to draw near.

…Then I will cause [her] to draw near,
And [she] shall approach Me… (From Jer. 30:21)

The latter part of the poem speaks about my testimony of what happened two Sundays ago during worship service.

draw near

Draw Near



If we walk in the light
Where God abides
We have fellowship with Him
And the blood of Christ
Cleanses us from all sin...

Then why don't we draw near
As often as Love leans in?

If by His life
We receive our own
A new heart, new creation
If in Him
We are made righteous
Sanctified, forgiven...

Then why don't we draw close
As often as Love calls?

If we come to Him
He promises rest
From all our labors and heavy weights
His yoke will be easy 
And His burden light...

Then why don't we draw close
As often as Love invites?

If we run to the well
He meets us there
He makes us to drink
His living water
We'll never again thirst 
In this life
And even forever...

Then why don't we draw near
As often as Love whispers?

If in His throne of grace
We'll find mercy
In time of great need
If from His hand 
All blessings flow
Abundant, unhindered...
Then why don't we draw near
As often as Love stirs?

If at His feet
We can cast all sorrows and cares
And know that He knows
Every grief, every burden
Upon our shoulders
And hears all our prayers...

Then why don't we draw near
As often as Love remembers?

If at the cross
Salvation flows
Healing is ours 
Through the stripes
That He bore...

Then why don't we draw close
As often as Love pulls?

If in our praises
He comes down
And sits upon the throne
Of our hearts' hymns and songs
Rejoices over us
Turns our mourning into dance...

Then why don't we draw close
As often as Love rings out?

If in His presence
There is fullness of joy
Sorrows are soothed
As in the Lord we rejoice
Hurts are forgotten
As His face we behold...

Then why don't we draw close
As often as Love unfolds?

In just one song
Drawn from the soul
My heart opened wide
And my spirit soared
Fear had no place
In His glorious praise
There is only grace 
All-abounding grace!

I raised my hands
Wanting to be lifted up
To that place where He dwells
Where there is only light.

Love, overwhelming love
Gripped me like a whirlwind
All doubts and struggles
Flew away and fled
His presence is power
There is like no other.

Eyes tightly closed
I found myself under
The cross of Christ
And I wondered
Beheld His brokenness
Speaking to me 
"Child, because of this, 
You are healed."

Blood poured out 
Upon my upturned face
As I received 
Every drop
Of this precious blood
By which I am saved.

Tears trickled down
As a keening cry broke out
From the depths of my soul 
For I knew not
What to say or pray for
But the Spirit of God
Interceded on my behalf.

Draw near to God
As often as Love resounds.

~ Rina R. Peru

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Healing of the Heart and Soul

I continue to revel in this lightheartedness brought about by the healing of the heart and soul. For that is what it brings: lightness of the spirit – heart that’s healthy and free and soul that’s not stooped and shrinking. So, I bask under the Lord Jesus’ light and love even though the trials are still here.

love of God

All who come to Jesus are, in one way or another, ailing in heart and soul. That’s why we come to the Savior: to be healed and receive salvation. So, we receive the immense gift of grace: the forgiveness of all our sins and healing from our past. We are made whole. By His stripes we are healed (Is. 53:5). We are made into new creation (see 2 Cor. 5:17).

But somewhere along the faith journey, trials come, some are too hard to bear that we struggle, really struggle, to be able to overcome. Sometimes the struggle takes years. If we surrender to the molding, forming, and shaping of the Potter’s hand, processes that are not without pain, it may create in us a faith that’s strong, steadfast, unmovable.

But the long, arduous trials that seem to have no end may also harden the heart and make the soul bitter. Suffering, the kind that is beyond understanding, can send one to a whirlwind of negative emotions that may be hard to shake off. Such was what happened to me.

For years through sickness and suffering, the struggles have really been hard. At the end of the day, you will know that the struggle is really with God. You get hurt, dismayed, disappointed, discouraged, depressed, and deep in your heart, you believe that it is because of Him. Why doesn’t He do something? is a question that somewhat summarizes and represents all the whys. Over time, you develop feelings of envy, jealousy, and self-pity, just because you don’t receive what you are fervently begging for while others enjoy the very same thing. As the desert stretches endlessly before you, the sadness settles like a rock and the longing burrows deeper and becomes more painful. As suffering intensifies, the heart works hard to cope. But bitterness, cynicism, numbness, resentment, and silent rage can easily take up space there. Every now and then, they gain the upper hand in an insidious way. Most of the time, you won’t realize it, but they are there and they won’t go away, unless the Healer comes to take them away.

You feel so vulnerable, like a fragile porcelain ready to shatter to thousand pieces with just the slightest touch.

So, can we still get heart-and soul-broken even when we’re in the Lord Jesus Christ? The answer is yes.

I don’t think there’s anyone who is immune to such struggles. Even the prominent men and women of the Bible went through the same struggles. King David wrote psalms upon psalms of his gruelling trials and how he had painfully questioned God for them.

How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me? (Ps. 13:1)

There is a beloved young father in church, one who is closest to the household of God and therefore, you would think that his faith is unshakeable. But when a painful trial came to their family, he struggled greatly to the point that he wanted to run away from God for good. He wanted to find answers. Oh, the struggles of the soul that he had to go through! When he testified in the pulpit, he spoke of the deepest emotions a heart and soul are capable of reaching (choking back tears). He opened his soul as wide as that before the whole congregation. It is part and parcel of his healing.

In the midst of indescribable suffering, you only want two things: to be delivered speedily or for God to lift off His heavy hand that is upon you and let you breathe. Oh, how Job had longed for that!

“Only two things do not do to me,
Then I will not hide myself from You:
21 Withdraw Your hand far from me,
And let not the dread of You make me afraid.” Job 13:20-21)

I love Kari Jobe’s song, The Garden, from her latest album of the same title. During an interview, she shared how the lyrics of the song came about: from the ashes of a painful trial in their family.

I can see the ivy
Growing through the wall
‘Cause You’ll stop at nothing
To heal my broken soul.

Ohh, You’re healing broken souls… (From The Garden by Kari Jobe)

Kari’s soul was broken because of the trial. Her healing came about when she went out to their garden and saw the ivy. The Lord spoke to her through it. It was an epiphany for her.

How was I healed of my own brokenness brought not by sin but by unrelenting sickness and suffering? When I decided to walk away from the place of heart-and-soul oppression and stood on neutral ground. I wanted to enter Jesus’ love like auto mode, but it wasn’t actually happening in my heart. I still wanted to stare into blank space and think about nothing and feel nothing. Maybe it is in that place of nothingness, when I emptied myself of the negative emotions, meaning, I didn’t give in to them even after episodes of suffering, but kept my heart and mind on neutral, that the Lord was able to get in.

But I know that much of it came at the heels of my withdrawal from Facebook and the negative effects it was having in my life; when I heeded the Lord’s call to come away with Him to a quiet place. The Lord invites us to peel our eyes off of the world and turn them fully on Him.

Understand with your heart
    and turn, and I would heal you. (From Mat. 13:15)

In the midst of pain and confusion, we want to sulk, to be in a huge sulk with God and that could take any form. Like running away from Him. Even silently, in the heart. But He goes after us, or maybe He is already there where we want to go, waiting. He whispers, “Come away with me.” 

What does this tell us about Him? That He will never give up on us even though in our moments of weakness we entertain the thought of giving up on Him (you know, as a part of the sulk)? Could it be that He’s being true to His promise? That nothing, nothing, can separate us from His love?

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:38-39)

I shout in my spirit, “Yes!!!”

MY ART

Mothers’ Day is approaching, so I would like to share with you my art with the hope that you may find something you would like to gift away. Below I have uploaded my original watercolor paintings. Premium prints are also available should you be interested. I only use professional or artist watercolors and paper is 100% cotton, 300gsm, acid-free, mainly Saunders Waterford by St. Cuthberts Mill. For premium prints, paper used is also 300gsm, textured, special art paper.

To order or inquire, you may email me at: rinaperu@yahoo.com. Payment for international orders is via PayPal. For local orders, via BDO bank deposit.

12 inches x 16 inches ORIGINAL WATERCOLOR PAINTINGS

(Prices range from $80-$100).

abundant

ABUNDANT

 

BLOOMS IN A COPPER JUG

BLOOMS IN A COPPER JUG

 

YELLOW ROSE BUSH

YELLOW ROSE BUSH

 

PERSIMMONS

PERSIMMONS

 

OVERFLOW

OVERFLOW

 

SAMPAGUITA (JASMINE)

SAMPAGUITA (JASMINE)

 

PURPLE ORCHIDS

PURPLE ORCHIDS

 

PEACH ROSE BUSH

PEACH ROSE BUSH

 

LIGHTS

LIGHTS (Only premium print is available)

9 inches x 12 inches ORIGINAL WATERCOLOR PAINTINGS

(Prices range from $40-$50).

LILAC

LILAC

 

SIMPLICITY

SIMPLICITY

 

BLUE AND RED

BLUE AND RED

 

GRACE

GRACE

 

SHINE

SHINE

 

GENTLENESS

GENTLENESS

12 inches x 12 inches ORIGINAL WATERCOLOR PAINTINGS

(Paper used is Khadi 100% cotton, 300gsm, handmade paper).

RED AND GREEN ROSE

RED AND GREEN ROSE

 

SORBET PEONY

SORBET PEONY

 

PEACH ROSE

PEACH ROSE

 

PINK ROSE

PINK ROSE

 

RED DAHLIA

RED DAHLIA

 

PURPLE DAHLIA

PURPLE DAHLIA

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Rest

Rest is good. But for many of us including myself, we want to avoid it as much as possible and as long as we can hold out. That is, until we are burned out. Or until we hear the voice of the Lord calling, inviting us to His presence where we can find rest and peace for our souls. For the strong who move about in the world “spinning yarn into gold” day and night, they may find rest in their plush hotel rooms as exhaustion catches up with them. What they have is physical rest which their bodies so badly need.

AT THE CENTER. My unfinished strawberry painting. I am dismayed that, after examining my heart, this project indeed bears my fingerprints and not the Lord Jesus'. It's a deep-in-the-heart thing I need not divulge :( .

AT THE CENTER. My unfinished strawberry painting. Although the name was inspired by one of my favorite praise songs,”Jesus at the Center”, I am dismayed that, after examining my heart, this project indeed bears my fingerprints and not the Lord Jesus’. It’s a deep-in-the-heart thing I need not divulge :( . Who or what is at the center of your life?

The owner of a large Japanese cosmetic ingredients manufacturer who is a supplier of our own company for the past two decades recently visited Manila. Before his trip here, he passed through China, his days dotted with business meetings. When Felix my husband met him, this ageing businessman looked so tired and haggard he was ready to drop. He recounted to Felix his many appointments before and after his visit to our country. He is so busy and always on-the-go that he got confused with which airlines he was flying in until Felix offered his assistance.

This man may squeeze in rest in-between his wildly busy schedule, but it will just be a physical rest, a few hours of sleep wherein his body ceases to do any activity. But at every waking moment, the mind zooms in automatically on the day’s agenda.

I believe that true rest is free of worries, fears, and anxieties. That the waking moments are sweet, to be relished and not to be dreaded.

True rest is finding a place where our bodies, minds, and hearts can settle in peace and comfort. I believe that it is in this kind of rest that our bodies produce and multiply healthy cells and we recover.

We know that, but often, we forget. I do.

Two weeks ago, about the time I was supposed to write for my weekly blogpost, I had already planned on a topic. But as I collected the thoughts in my mind, it felt like the cup wasn’t filling up. It remained empty. That was my cup. I was running on empty and the Lord wanted me to see that.

I cannot write about what I do not have. I cannot give away what myself is lacking and needing, because it isn’t even there.

Simply put, I cannot give what I haven’t received.

So, I decided to pass the week without a blogpost. I needed a writing holiday. It wasn’t about the writing per se, it was about being filled up so I have something to pour out.

I needed rest – my mind, my heart, and most of all, my body. I posted an unfinished strawberry painting project on IG and informed everyone that there wouldn’t be a new blogpost on that week.

It was very clear that the Lord was inviting me to rest. His rest. And I couldn’t deny anymore the fact that my weak and ailing body was crying out for it.

Rest is God’s gift to His children. Rest is His grace. Rest is His mercy. (For we could be so stubborn sometimes, ignoring the rhythms of our bodies and being cruel to them). To enter into His rest every now and then is an standing invitation. All we need to do is drop everything and enter in.

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Mat. 11:28-30)

These words of the Lord Jesus Christ show how compassionate He is toward us – the weary, the burnt out, the suffering, the stooped-down.

Why do we keep on spinning until we succumb to exhaustion, endlessly doing and performing and achieving and reaching and striving? No matter how much we deny it, we keep on doing because we want to leave a mark. We want our lives to matter. And I believe that is not a bad thing. But I also believe that our performances matter less to God than our deep desire to commune with Him and revel in His presence.

And maybe, we also unintentionally offend God when we work so hard to show to the world a stellar work, claiming it’s for God’s glory, but in reality, our marks and fingerprints are all over the place. We may not realize it but He knows our hearts more than we do. Our work should bear His marks and fingerprints. 

So, I entered into God’s rest and did my best to keep still and be not distracted by the world. It’s easier to do that when there is physical suffering involved. But entering into His rest also requires our humbling down and heartfelt confessing and repenting, if we know there are reasons to, like when we have made a god of our work or something. It is only when peace descends upon us that we can settle in His rest. And even if there is suffering, His unfailing love, His peace and comfort, will steady our hearts.

This is the reason why my heart grieves for those people who have not really known, received, and loved the Lord Jesus Christ and yet, still refuse Him in their sickbeds. I don’t understand. They want to be healed but they do not want to receive the Healer. They do not want to enter into His kind of holy rest. Is it maybe because they do not believe in the first place? Or they think they have been good they don’t need saving? Or they do not have enough divine fear? Or maybe mostly because they haven’t known and understood and didn’t hear enough? Seek enough?

But how can a fragile human being whose life is just a vapour which appears for a little time, and then vanishes away (see James 4:14) afford to refuse Him? How can a sick person find rest without the Lord Jesus’ presence, His love and peace? For all our hope is in the Lord Jesus Christ.

But this thing I learned: we shouldn’t give up in offering God’s rest – His salvation – over and over until we are heard and He is received. For in the Lord Jesus, there is rest from our labors, ailments, and sufferings.

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Live Graciously

I admit I am still new to living graciously intentionally. It came on the heels of the Lord’s whisper some weeks ago when, as usual, I had to process my emotions and thoughts to figure out how to react to a hurtful comment or abrasive attitude. Sometimes, our default might be to feel resentful or to contend. Or keep silent and try to search for a Christian reaction or a Biblical one. As we simmer in silent anger or hurt, as the case maybe, we are also aware that the Lord knows the state of our hearts and minds. And although we may try to convince ourselves to choose the way of patience and forbearance, such frequent vexations could pile up and grow into something that could harden our hearts.

GRACE

One day not too long ago, I found myself in such a situation. I was thinking, “It can’t always be like this, me, curbing my temper just to maintain peace.” I thought that there shouldn’t be an internal struggle every time, that the mere act of forbearing should not also trigger feelings of resentment or disappointment. The act of forgiveness that we want to happen in our hearts should truly bring peace in there.

Then it came. Written across the space where I was trying to weigh in whether to fully forgive or harbor hurt or entertain a little of both were the words: Live graciously. Then the soft whisper: You have learned to live in My grace, now, learn to live graciously. 

Live graciously.

That’s it! That’s the answer to our dillydallying hearts, when, even in our act of forgiving, we still want to harbor hurts or resentment. Live graciously intentionally. To choose grace every single time. And when we remember grace, and know that we’re doing grace because the Lord Jesus did if first, it all becomes easy. Graciousness doesn’t carry with it a single molecule of unforgiveness or ill will. That is the Lord Jesus’ graciousness and it never gets tarnished.

So, with the whisper, “Live graciously,” my heart exhaled all the impure air and settled in grace. Grace received, grace given away. The practice of giving grace away abundantly just as we continually receive it much the same way settles the disquiet in our hearts. It is a form of worship. When we let that sink in our minds, we know that we are doing a most excellent thing and won’t be resentful about it.

We cannot give away what we have not received ourselves. But we do receive it every single day, in measures beyond what we truly deserve. 

I have somewhat a pretty, good idea what gracious means. And before this writing, I had collected them in my mind as my heart understood it. But I’d like to share the list of synonyms I had gathered from my online search.

Gracious is merciful, compassionate, kind, forgiving, clement, forbearing, tenderhearted, sympathetic, benevolent, generous.

Wow. Don’t you want to be all of those and more? I know I do.

So, we push away all traces of selfishness and choose to be gracious. It’s a beautiful thing. 

It’s grace that changes us. Grace flows from the cross of Christ. The same flows from our surrendered lives, arms wide open in surrender to receive. And to give away. It is only in this posture does grace flow. 

Grace is another facet of love. In most cases, it is the gateway to love. And vice versa. For it is for love that grace flowed in Calvary without measure.

…But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more. (Rom. 5:20)

Living graciously, though at times it’s hard to do, is living beautifully. It’s the only good and beautiful way to live. For we cannot love without giving grace.

Living graciously is to not harbor ill feelings or speak ill of our neighbor even if they do towards us. And who is our neighbor? The other person. Our natural tendency is to contend when hurt or when we want to be proven right. But the Bible says to maintain lowliness of mind (humility):

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. (Phil. 2:3)

Meek and lowly. That is Christlikeness.

When we choose to act on our emotions (oftentimes pride) instead of listening to the Holy Spirit, we walk after the flesh and not after the Spirit. But we are in Christ Jesus.

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (Rom. 8:1)

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Whole Again

I love You, O Lord, my strength

I love You, O Lord, my strong high tower

Where else can I run?

Where else can I hide away?

Whole Again

So my heart has been singing lately. Gigantic exhale. What a relief, what a joy as my Lord and Savior King folded me back into His exhilarating love! As I struggled to fix what was ailing my heart and spirit, He waited patiently. He gave me room. He is so gracious (and gentlemanly) like that. My grappling culminated last Friday overnight worship service when a song offered by a group of beloved adult sisters gripped me and I sobbed and sobbed in surrender. For quite a long time, I had been doing my best to hold it all in, and although I had been asking the Lord for mercy and help, I realized that night that I wasn’t really relinquishing everything. There was still that insistence to hold onto sorrow (and all other negative emotions akin to it) due to unmet longings and unanswered prayers.

But that night, and after fasting from Facebook for many days (which, I’m glad to tell you, has been like a soothing balm), the Lord made me realize how miserable I had let myself become. Yes, miserable, poor, needy, pitiful. But I was glad that He made me realize the fullness of it and led me to Himself and the truth that only He can do something for me. Not the world. Not the things I see that make me feel miserable in the first place.

That night, it was an altogether surrender all over again to His mercy, love, and sovereignty. And to what He offers.

Oh, I sobbed unabashedly as the ladies sang. I could be that and more before Him. So hungry, so in need of Him. I raised my hands and sobbed, “Remember me, my Lord.” I am sure I cried out many other soul-deep supplications, but suffice it to say now that He let me see my hapless state, and again, reminded me of His words as at the last:

I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. (Rev. 3:18)

But even before that night, I was gradually recovering emotionally and spiritually as I stepped up my spiritual life, shunning Facebook and the world in general, and writing on my prayer journal more fervently, inviting the Lord on and between the pages of it as I communed with Him. Throughout the day, I would whisper a prayer or a praise or a word of thanks. As I turned more inwardly, towards myself and our own home and life, I became stronger spiritually everyday. Hallelujah!

I am now slowly assimilating the fact that, immersing my senses in the world and its wiles had made me “scattered”. That is, my thoughts, emotions, desires, and decisions had gone quite awry (imagine charged particles or substances not in equilibrium, but then, that’s Chemistry 😀 ) when they should have been united – WHOLE – if only I’d focused on Jesus and the things of God alone. So lately, I have been whispering a prayer: “Draw me ever nearer to You, Lord Jesus. For only near You I am healed and whole and holy.”

I had let the things I see in this world (mostly through FB since I can’t go out) influence my mindset and affections that should have been otherwise entirely influenced by the Lord Jesus and His words and truth through His Holy Spirit. There is an entirely different “world” from the one we see physically or virtually, and we can easily miss it if we do not intentionally turn our eyes from the ones we’re used to seeing or love seeing and diligently seek it. This another “world” is the kingdom of God on earth where we can see signs, wonders, and miracles.

But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. (Mat. 12:28, emphasis added)

Looking at the world may stir up grievances instead of pure thanksgiving to God. It is then that we compare and see what we lack and feel discontented and begin to complain.

It is this deceitfulness of the world that the Lord has warned us about.

“…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)

It is this desire for other things that sways our heads and hearts into the direction they should not take. But as I peeled off my eyes of the world and looked straight ahead, I saw the things of God – His wonders and miracles.

She is a mother of six. Her husband, who was addicted to drugs, abandoned them. She had to rear her children on her own and she was not wealthy. Actually, she was dirt poor. But she was resolute to care for her 6 children: feed, clothe, and send them to school no matter what. No matter if she picked up garbage which she did. She worked night and day with her bare hands. She worked, not minding the stark hardship of it all. If you heard her testify and say, “Life. Was. Very. Hard.”, you would know and understand the hardship she went through.

He was a construction worker before he became totally blind. He is an orphan and his remaining family and relations abandoned him. He was blind and so alone. He couldn’t work anymore. He lived in a wooden cart. Many days would go without him tasting any food and lived only by water. He was hungry, thirsty, cold, and so lonely. One day he cried out toward heaven for God to take his life and end his suffering. He said, “So, I won’t feel this pain in my heart anymore.” 

As I listened to these testimonies in the past days, I realized that I had been looking the wrong way. This here is where the eyes of God are trained on. This here is true life, kingdom life where God works and His heartbeat is felt and heard.

As I teetered on sulk and feeling faint, the Lord waited patiently. When I finally came to wisdom, He met me with an abundance of His grace.

He anointed my eyes with eye salve and I am again truly seeing. And I was healed. Spiritually. Whole again.

The mother of 6 has now a schoolteacher, some are in college, some are in high school. And her husband has come to Jesus and He restored their family.

The poor blind man received the Lord Jesus. After a few months of diligently attending services, He could see. Now, many others are being saved because of his testimony.

(The testimonies I shared here are from our church, JESUS MIRACLE CRUSADE INTERNATIONAL MINISTRY. The man who used to be blind is our beloved Bro.Michael Garcia).

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Of Christ’s Fullness

I was glad when, a few days before Christmas, I arrived at the Book of John in my daily Bible reading and journaling. This is what I do: I read one book from the OT Beginning at Genesis, then one book from NT, beginning at the Book of Matthew, back and forth. What preceded John was Deuteronomy, so it was law to grace. Unlike Luke, John doesn’t retell the birth of Jesus, but it is equally rich in powerful promises. Walking through the Book of John is like walking through a diamond mine.

GRACE. My original watercolor painting on 9" x 12" wc paper. (Reference photo by Serah Loud via IG).

GRACE. My original watercolor painting on 9″ x 12″ wc paper. (Reference photo by Serah Loud via IG).

Full of bright expectations, I was on the lookout for God’s riches in the form of words and promises. And they came, like precious gems sparkling in a dark cave.

And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:16-17)

Of Christ’s fullness we have all received. 

His truth. His grace. His forgiveness. His salvation. His healing. His life.

Yes, because,

…As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God… (John 1:12)

the right

to become

children of God

As the Lord Jesus is, so are we in this world (part of 1 John 4:17). . Heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ (part of Romans 8:17).

But sometimes, it just doesn’t seem that way. We fall ill. We suffer. We become destitute – of food, of strength and courage, of healing, of deliverance from problems. Dreams are not fulfilled. Longings are not satisfied. We groan. Tears fall.

But all these don’t change the truth: To those who have received the Lord Jesus Christ and who believe on His name, they are the children and heirs of God. We have that unseen treasure, treasure that neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal (part of Mat. 6:20)…

neither death nor life

nor angels nor principalities nor powers

nor things present nor things to come 

nor height nor depth…

Nothing and no one shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom.8:38-39).

So we suffer tribulation, but in essence, in truth, in reality – we are good. We will be fine.

It is well with our soul.

We are not left behind. We are not forsaken. We are not poverty-stricken. The Lord Jesus said in Rev. 2:9: “I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich)…” Yes, heirs-of-the-kingdom-of-God rich. 

A beloved preacher in our church and his wife came from a wake an hour after Christmas Eve. They were going home to their place knowing that they didn’t have any food prepared for noche buena. So, when they passed by Mini Stop, they realized they were hungry, so they entered and had each a siopao (Chinese steamed bun). The beloved preacher told his wife cheerfully, “So, this is our noche buena.”

While the rest of the Philippines celebrated Christmas Eve with tables laden with food, gifts piled up under the Christmas trees, and carols and laughters ringing out, the beloved preacher and his wife enjoyed their siopao. And they were perfectly fine.

And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. (John 6:35)

When we maintain a “kingdom of God” perspective, we wouldn’t know or see lack. We only know what we have in Christ.

It would have seemed in my last post that all I desire is to go to places I’ve never been and fill up my senses with the things I would see and experience. But that is not what is foremost in my mind. My desire is to do the will of God. I already have a plan set in place: When I’m already well, I will go wherever the Lord sends me to – to testify and win souls.

At the beginning of 2016, I set my life’s theme based on Isaiah 6:8: “Here am I! Send me.”  Throughout the year, every prayer I prayed for my healing, I ended it with, “Here am I, Lord, send me!”

I wasn’t sent anywhere except to my painting table or the patio. Still, it is well with my soul.

A MOST BLESSED, PROSPEROUS, VERY NEW YEAR TO US ALL!

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Remember Grace

One late at night last week while Felix was away in the province and I was alone in our room, the enemy attacked all of a sudden. It started with labored breathing, then my insides shook like when you feel really cold. But my two layers of blanket couldn’t reach to the core of my body to warm it. The shaking and weakness spread to my legs until they seemed lifeless. The twitching muscles made them limp. I wanted to just curl up and let the strange suffering pass, but I couldn’t do that either. I tried to vomit to relieve me, but the shaking inside continued, from my belly, sides, and up to my abdomen. While sitting up, I raised my hand and prayed and begged God to heal me and relieve me of what I was experiencing, then I cast out the demons of illness that were attacking me. I was becoming scared. I lay back on my pillows, put my Bible under me, turned off the aircon (although the room wasn’t that cold), covered myself with my blankets, then forced myself to lie still in a prone position. My heart was beating fast which was making me feel exhausted. There was nothing more I could do but to wait for the mercy of God.

TULIPS IN BLUE AND WHITE VASE. My watercolor painting on 9" x 12" wc paper.

TULIPS IN BLUE AND WHITE VASE. My watercolor painting on 9″ x 12″ wc paper.

This kind of suffering, in all of its forms and insidiousness, has been a part of my life these past 13 years. There are times I wanted to wave my fist at it, at the unseen demons lurking in space, and challenge them to battle, but what good would that do? I want to pound the demons of illness and suffering to pieces, if only I could see what I am up against. This suffering, it leaves a bad and bitter taste in my mouth that I want to spew out once and for all. If only spitting it out would do the trick.

(My scary experience that night reenforced my perseverance in casting out demons of sickness and suffering in full faith and power and authority in Jesus’ name and not to grow faint and give in to the devil’s wishes).

That night, after waiting out for the shaking to stop and for my insides to settle and my heart to beat normally, it finally came after more than half an hour or so. My heart gradually returned to its normal beating and I felt my whole body warm up. The feeling was almost heavenly and I was lulled to sleep because of the warmth and exhaustion.

There had been such episodes of warmth and peace before, healing moments I call them, when the relief from suffering felt like I was being lifted up from the bed and rocked gently in the clouds to sleep. I remembered them then before I succumbed to a peaceful slumber.

In the morning when I woke up, I remembered the suffering of the night before. In my mind, I gave form to the subconscious thoughts that have always plagued me these many years of suffering so much.

Does God really love me? If He does, why does He let me suffer so much and this long? Is He always angry at me? Unfavorable? Displeased? Why does He punish me so severely and would not relent?

But even as I entertained these bitter thoughts, wisdom was squeezing itself hard into the forefront of my brain, wanting to be heard.

Does not wisdom cry out,
And understanding lift up her voice? (Prov. 8:1)

I listened to wisdom and truth enveloped my whole being.

It is not God who is making me suffer. God isn’t my enemy, the devil is. God, who loves me with an everlasting love, will not do that to me, will not punish me until I am crying out for mercy. He doesn’t take pleasure in inflicting me pain. The devil does.

The Lord is merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. (Ps. 103:8)

I took hold of the truth even as it took hold of me. I sat up and raised my hands toward heaven and said,

Father in heaven, in Your name my dearest Lord Jesus Christ. You are a merciful God, compassionate and full of grace. You loved me even when I was a sinner and unworthy of Your love. You cared for me so much You poured out Your love and life on Calvary. You saved me from hell because I matter to You. It is not You who are making me suffer for You are good and faithful to me.

I remember Your grace poured out upon me and I know You love me.

After the storm, the birds come out of hiding to sing. They don’t wave their fists toward heaven and rant why their nests fell to the ground and their young left pitifully as the storm battered and buffeted them. The flowers open up towards the sun slowly emerging out of the parting clouds, greeting the world and their Creator with their radiant faces.

Humans lament and complain.

Remember grace.

Grace poured out upon us beyond measure, more than 2000 years ago, even before Calvary. On a holy, chilly night in the hill country.

10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:10-14, emphasis added)

good tidings of great joy

peace

goodwill to all men

They all spell G-R-A-C-E.

The spouse, a family member, a friend, or a co-worker hurt you and made you cry because of his/her ill treatment of you? Cry some. Pray big. Fully forgive. Remember grace.

Grace received, grace given away.

Where sin abounds, grace abounds much more (see Rom. 5:20).

Grace is the channel through which all God’s blessings flow.

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Redeeming the Time

In Ephesians 5:15-17, the apostle Paul tells us to redeem the time:

See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 

My watercolor painting of Fall Foliage (reference photo from Instagram). I hope you like it.

My watercolor painting of Fall Foliage (reference photo from Instagram). I hope you like it.

We were given the reason why we must redeem the time – the days are evil – and how we go about it: walk circumspectly and wisely and understanding the will of God. When we think of “redeeming the time”, we usually think of the bigger picture: our service to God. Well, for me anyway. That is, until something happened at home that brought me to this.

What exactly is “redeem”? I like what Google gave when I searched for its definition.

redeem: compensate for the faults or bad aspects of (something); do something that compensates for poor past performance or behavior.

As I’ve mentioned above, up to this time, I saw “redeeming the time” as more of the task of a Christ laborer, especially those who preach the Gospel and win souls everywhere. To not waste time in spreading the Gospel of salvation as it is the only way to fight these evil days, pushing back the darkness and its works. But when we see it only this way, we tend to think that we, as housewives and stay-at-home moms or full-time career or business people, are not really called to this.

But I received an epiphany today that practicing “redeeming the time” in our marriages, families, and homes is a beautiful moment-by-moment, day-to-day undertaking. It is living a life that is full of grace.

I, with my ailing self, derive strength from the love, peace, and joy that our home and family bring, but most of all, of course, from my faith in God. Each day, however hard it is for me physically, I am renewed, strengthened, and inspired to pursue and live life to the Christ-fullest. That desire alone keeps me awake at night pondering and keeps me on my toes throughout the day. I have that deep desire to truly live out the Lord Jesus’ words and not only a lip service or going through the motions. It is my way of loving Him wholly and honoring Him in my life. A continuous, daily worship.

At the bottom of all this is my belief that being pleasing and right with God is what gives me life and continuance.

…the joy of the Lord is [my] strength. ( Part of Neh. 8:10)

But my heart’s desires and my attempts at living them are affected by my circumstances and the people I do life with. Mistakes, blunders, failures are bound to happen. The aim to walk the higher ground and foster a better relationship with someone for instance, could shatter in a moment’s weakness. Disagreements arise, even a word war or silent war or cold war! In a moment’s time, we could say the wrong word, words that stir up anger or hurt. But this is the good part: we need not stay there! After the words are spoken, the tears are shed, or maybe the door has been shut, or the back has been turned – it is not really the end. It must not be the end.

That is the beauty of grace. We can partake of it as often and as much as we want to. That is the inconsumable grace of Lamentations 3: 22-23:

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
23 They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.

We are given new mercies every morning. Every morning we are renewed, reinstated, and reaffirmed. And if our gracious and merciful Father does it to us every morning, can’t we do the same to each other? Can’t we renew, reinstate, and reaffirm one another in each other’s love, joy, and peace?

Can’t we redeem what we have foolishly squandered?

Are we better at squandering or redeeming?

Do we squander the new day and the new mercies given to us because we are hard-hearted like that? Do we squander them by giving in to our unprofitable emotions: anger, resentment, bitterness, coldness?

No. We redeem each and every moment and every day with new mercies as the Lord supplies us! We redeem the ugliness, the mistakes, the failures with fresh grace.

… Freely [we] have received, freely give. (Part of Mat. 10:8)

We redeem the squandered moments with fresh dose of forgiveness and love and we gather again peace and joy unto our bosom and rejoice together in the Lord. A life of grace is where we thrive, like fish to water, plants to rich soil.

To redeem is to gather again and not to scatter.

Because we walk after the Holy Spirit and live by its fruit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control – tarrying in that place outside of its borders will not be good for us and our health. It’s like fish out of water.

I have a fragile health and I can’t afford to squander my days. I don’t have the luxury of endless days. On earth, at least. That is true for all of us. A stanza of the song You Are My World is a great reminder:

And all my days are gifts from You
I pray I’d use them as You want me to
Use them for You.

Our beloved pastor advises to live each day as if it were the day the Lord Jesus comes. Watching. Praying. Loving. Giving grace and mercy. Rejoicing. Living in peace and joy. Wasting nothing.

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Journey with Jesus,