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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The Posture of Worship

The posture of worship for the strong is on their knees or standing, hands raised towards heaven while singing with all their hearts and might. There maybe exuberant clapping, dancing, and jumping, depending on the music, or trembling and crying in the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit. I have yet to experience these. Most of the time, I find myself in a prone position while I do my best to focus on breathing well, which is often hard, while the Jesus Finest Generation Choir sings during worship service. It’s been mostly like that these past more than 13 years. I cannot count the times I had marveled at how my difficult circumstances hardly ever changes. I look at the singers on the riser and wonder how different my situation is from them. How vastly different! And it pains me to think why it has always been so for many years now.

"We love Him because He first loved us."

If you have been in my blog orbit these past more than 5 years, you know how I have struggled against the hardships my sickness and suffering brings and all the emotional, mental, and spiritual turmoil I go through. And though I always write about my embattled faith still standing strong through it all, it felt like my relationship with God was fraying around the edges, like it couldn’t be entirely, seamlessly, flawlessly whole while I wrestled with the many important issues in my faith life. There were the struggles against envy, self-pity, bitterness, resentment, discouragement, numbness, hurts and pains, deep longings, sadness, anger, fear, cynicism, coldness, and silent rebellion in the heart. Whew!

There were the starings into empty space with empty mind and numb heart, wishing that the blankness would swallow up all the seemingly endless suffering. And it would suddenly be all over.

But recently, the Lord called me into His rest, His holy presence, not through a powerful, Spirit-filled worship, but through gentle whispers in my heart.

A lot has happened internally since then. And though my sickness and suffering has yet to relent, I realized that I was being transformed deep inside. There had been many “refining processes” before. I call them fiery trials and through them, a lot of changes have happened in me. But through the years with no complete healing in sight, I had continued to wrestle with God, much like Jacob did.

This time, God has revealed to me the posture of worship. It is not always standing and singing.

It is not always an abandoned praise where you give all that is within you. It is all that you are. Even when you’re not singing or praising. It is who you are during the times that you cannot rise to sing and lift up your hands.

The posture of worship even in the most difficult times is humility, deep gratitude, and unquestioning faith. The highest worship we could give God is our faith even when it feels like we’ve been thrown into the fiery furnace lit seven times stronger and that it spins like a dryer. (In a cement manufacturing plant, you will see a giant revolving kiln, its height could take up two floors. This is where limestone and other materials are melted to make cement. You will see the product coming out of the kiln like red, liquid fire. The surrounding area is so hot).

Even so, but to still believe in Him and trust Him. To still draw closer to Him and believe that He is good, gracious, and plenteous in mercy. To never doubt that ever again.

To spurn the thoughts swirling in our minds that He is a severe God, that He doesn’t listen to our most fervent prayers. That maybe He’s not fair? That He loves us less than the others? For “Jacob He has loved, but Esau He has hated” (Rom. 9:13), right?

But we don’t embrace these. We cast them out from us. Because we are those children who love their Father, who want to keep on loving Him. Forever. For only in this we become strong. Only in this we are happy – truly, spiritually happy.

everlasting love

My painting of last year. (Please excuse my terrible brush lettering).

So we love Him, for doesn’t the Bible say that we do because He first did it? “We love Him because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19). And this love didn’t only start 2000 years ago. It is from everlasting. He has loved us with an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3). (I always want to remember this). So, even in our very difficult suffering, in our very hard places, we will love Him (crying).

We will love Him even through the blinding rain of our tears.

We will love Him because we know. We know the Truth, We know His Word. To love Him is to trust Him. No fight left in us. It is just a willing surrender. A trusting surrender. A loving surrender. That is the posture of worship.

No defiance, no bitterness, no resentment, no numbness, no hardheartedness. Just joyfully loving Him. Like a child who adores and clings to her father.

How can that even be possible when you’re battered by sickness and suffering, buffeted by diverse trials? And He, who alone can take us out of them, seems to be not moving a finger? And why ever not? All things are possible with Him, in Him, through Him, and for Him.

Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” (Mark 9:23)

I love that.

So, I need not envy others. In Christ I am complete. That is the simple truth. If I believe otherwise, I have listened to the devil’s lie. The Lord Jesus did not only die to save me, He also resurrected so I, too, will live forevermore.

So, we do not only worship the Healer because we’re desperate for healing. We worship because that’s how we’ve been wired. We are created to worship Him. This is the meaning of worshiping in spirit and in truth. We worship even through trials and tribulations, for we do not worship only because of our circumstances, but in His truth. The truth that remains unchanged forever. We worship in that truth. And in the spirit, where the love sowed by the Holy Spirit is connected to its Creator.

The posture of worship will always be on our knees, literally and figuratively.

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He Fills Us to Overflowing

I lay in bed with the singing and laughter still ringing in my head. When our family of four celebrates, it is loud. Not that we play music on a CD player or whatever, but we tell stories and jokes and speak all at the same time! We like pranking each other, whether child or adult, it doesn’t really matter. We cherish those moments when we gather together to enjoy food and each other’s company. We are used to celebrating on our own, no guests, and it’s really not a lack.

CHRISTMAS BUNDT CAKE. My original watercolor painting on 9" x 12" wc paper. (Reference photo by Natalios via IG).

CHRISTMAS BUNDT CAKE. My original watercolor painting on 9″ x 12″ wc paper. (Reference photo by Natalios via IG).

So, as I settled in bed after quite a long night celebrating my husband’s birthday, I only had praises and thanksgiving to God. These thoughts floated on my mind: He fills us to overflowing! Surely, He has filled us up tonight with good things and more than what we deserve.

For those who have not been tried and who have not experienced the pains and bitterness of life, such celebrations and rejoicing are taken for granted. But not for me and my family. We had known how to have nothing but fear and uncertainty and utter sadness when my sickness and suffering prevented us from celebrating. Or even eating a meal together. In our family, these words are more than a verse in the Bible, but a first-hand experience.

 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. (Phil. 4:12)

A villainous voice speaks to my mind, asking how I could possibly say that He fills us to overflowing when everyday, I still go through such difficulties brought by my illness. I still suffer.

But that night that we were drenched with singing and laughter and love, I could only see the goodness of God. I couldn’t focus on the daily hardship I experience, I only saw that our family was happy, period, and wanted to let God know I so appreciated it.

Every morsel of joy I could pick up from under the table, I will thank the Lord from the depths of my heart and soul.

How could I not say my heart overflows when I can eat all the food I want? For there were long seasons when I could only eat a few spoonfuls of runny rice porridge with clear beef broth. Felix savored the beef ribs I baked and ate only them. The Japanese cheesecake (our first-time!), though diminutive, virtually melted in my mouth. The gift I gave to the birthday man, he liked it a lot and he used it right away (I tell you, he’s quite finicky when it comes to his manly things). And the photos we took (there were numerous!) had been kind to me: they didn’t show telltale signs of my illness and suffering, or the warts, or any signs of aging like dark spots.

It’s not really about vanity. It’s about looking and feeling good in the midst of continued illness and hardships. It’s a blessing to look radiant despite the harassment of illness. And I believe it’s all because of Him.

Those who look to him are radiant,
    and their faces shall never be ashamed. (Ps. 34:5 ESV)

Just a few days before my husband’s birthday, I was swiping away tears of sadness. For the longest time, I have desired to be able to travel by land and by air. But it’s not happening. If I’d be downright honest, I get terribly envious when I see friends traveling from place to place. And I can’t even go around our neighborhood. Not spitefully envious. Just pitifully envious. Or sometimes, trying-to-be-indifferent envious.

It was a weekend and Felix and I were in the patio talking. I just received a Viber message from my new artist-friend that she and the whole family were going to New Zealand for the holiday season. New Zealand. You have no idea what those two words mean to me.

Most people dream of traveling to America or Europe. I do, too. But when the kids ask me (which they do every now and then) where I want to go when I’m already well, I often answer, “New Zealand.” Personally, I don’t want to imagine going along with throngs of tourists snaking in and out of famous tourist spots around the world, swarming around a famous edifice or monument or museum. I want to go where the crowd doesn’t choose to go.

Like the countryside of New Zealand, where sheep graze quietly on a rolling meadow that just goes on and on to the horizon. I want to experience the quiet atmosphere of a remote B&B accommodations nestled at the foot of a mountain where there is an unobstructed view of fields and fields of flowers. I will set up my travel brushes and palette and just paint the day away. Then visit quaint shops where they sell artisanal whatever that you can never find in malls.

Whisper: I have a private board on Pinterest labeled, “New Zealand” where I collect all my NZ pins, scenes I want to visit and paint. Someday.

Then my good friend told me she’s going there, not for a few days, but the whole holiday season. I messaged back to remind her to bring her travel brushes and paints and told her that I hoped she would find time to paint. The things I had wanted to do. Then tears started to fall, silently at first. But when Felix asked, I couldn’t help but sob. A little.

There are deep longings in a woman’s heart that one cannot seem to reach and soothe. But surely, there is nothing that the Lord Jesus cannot do something about.

These unmet longings, they can either drive us to be bitter or to be more faithful to God and intentionally see what He is doing in our lives and to be genuinely grateful for it.

It is only when we refuse to focus on the things that He is not doing, and instead gather all the crumbs that fall and are there for the picking, that we can fill up ourselves and not be hungry. Ruth gleaned the few stalks of barley the harvesters dropped as she followed them resolutely. At the end of each hot, back-stiffening day, she brought home an armload of barley. And she and Naomi never went hungry.

Follow Jesus faithfully. Bend down and glean. The Lord will never suffer us to go hungry. May it be spiritual hunger, healing hunger, dream fulfilment hunger, joy hunger, physical hunger … He has them all covered.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jer. 29:11)

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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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On Trudging, Patience, and Gratitude

Trudging through life. That’s exactly how I feel. Being unable to stand up and walk and move normally, with the constant discomforts brought by acid reflux, uncomfortable breathing, fatigue, weakness, and dizziness, my daily life is far different from the life I used to know more than a decade ago, or the lives of those around me and the people I know. It’s hard. Most days it’s like plowing through knee-deep snow (although I haven’t really tried that yet) or clay, where every single step takes a lot of effort and energy.

WINTER. My watercolor painting of a bird and dried up cherries in winter on 9" x 12" wc paper. (Reference photo by Betty Wiley on Flickr via Pinterest).

WINTER. My watercolor painting of a bird and dried up cherries in winter on 9″ x 12″ wc paper. (Reference photo by Betty Wiley on Flickr via Pinterest).

So, it’s like that: I trudge through the hours, days, weeks, and months. It’s like going over a hurdle from the last one to the next, heaving a huge sigh of relief and gratitude in between. One school term to the next. That means a three-month worth of homework and tutoring done and over with. One special occasion celebrated – photos taken, singing and laughters rang out, delectable food enjoyed, smiles exchanged, and thank-yous blown out towards heaven – to the next.

One heavy step after another. By faith. In faith.

I can no longer remember the last time that I cruised through life, breezing from one activity to another and waltzing through one celebration to the next.

That is what I see the people around me do. I find it hard to live and move with the rush and exhilaration around me, that’s why I often retreat to my quiet world where lack of strength is welcome and exhaustion finds rest. Hours of quiet, inactivity and recovery tick away with difficulty, but these, too, shall pass. Until the next activity. That and my deep desire to nurture a gentle and quiet spirit, much like Mary’s. With all the excitement around her with the birth of the Savior and the shepherds paying homage, Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart (Luke 2:19). No stress for Mary!

I hope that I don’t sound like I’m grumbling. I am only trying to explain how it feels like to be me, to trudge through life, and yet, learning the virtue of patience and living grateful at the same time.

True patience is devoid of complaints. That’s why it’s a virtue. It holds the character of a quiet, enduring, and sometimes, sacrificing, spirit. In the KJV Bible, it is called long-suffering and part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:4)

It’s the schoolroom of patience that we become perfect and complete. To run with patience the race that is set before us.

It is through the diligent practice of patience that we overcome, crossing one gulf to the next.

There is no more vivid example of that than in my swimming through the waters of a school term. Every afternoon, I anticipate the arrival of the kids from school. I set aside whatever I am working on, may it be a watercolor painting, working with my laptop, etc., and rest and be ready to welcome the kids. To offer them food when they are hungry, to massage feet when they are sleepy, and most of all, to tackle the homework and lessons. Being a very diligent and conscientious student once, I am the same in tutoring the kids, Tim now, especially. It is a task I don’t want to scrimp on.

You can’t imagine the relief I felt when suddenly – the term is over! And my Tim got straight As. Hallelujah! My trudging has been rewarded, now onto the next. Tim is just in grade 3 now. We have a loooong way to go. But always, we operate with the grace and strength of the Lord with unceasing prayers.

Last Saturday, December 3, we celebrated Tim’s birthday. We only invited 2 of his closest friends from our neighborhood because I can’t entertain people outside of family. I thought that Tim and his friends would just romp around then eat. My mistake. The grandmother of one of the friends came (she is a long time friend of the family), with the baby sister and a nanny in tow. I was in the patio ready to celebrate with the family and I could no longer flee to the sanctuary of my room.

To make the story short, I was able to visit with the granny-friend, took some photos and a video of everybody singing Happy Birthday and Tim blowing the candle on his cake (all of it happened in a whirl, as far as I was concerned, for I was fretting within, being very conscious of exhausting myself). And then had to embarrassingly excuse myself and hastily escape to my room because I couldn’t hold off the dizziness and exhaustion any longer. I was so embarrassed to ride in my wheelchair in front of them all but I didn’t have any choice. That’s what I had been avoiding to happen, that’s why I don’t open our doors to visitors. The nanny was openly staring at me like I was from another planet. Ugh!

But before the evening was over, (for Ate Irene, my neighbor-friend, followed me later to the bedroom where I was resting), I was able to sell her my entire 4-piece original IRIS painting collection, on 12″ x 16″!

I was fatigued but the night had its own rewards. I could forget about the stares when I had to hastily leave in my wheelchair. I only needed to focus on the good part: I was able to visit with a long-time neighbor and see her admire my paintings to the extent that she couldn’t almost make up her mind what to get. That makes me feel appreciated and it somewhat validates my work and gives me a feeling of fulfilment. All for the glory of my Father in heaven!

At the end of a long, tiring day, gratefulness is what is really needed. A grateful heart soothes and smoothes out stresses. It sorts out the lovely from the ugly and focuses and holds onto that. It brings back our perspective to look unto Jesus for He is our comfort and rest.

Gratefulness conveys us to another day, to rise up and welcome the new morning with hope and great expectations. For miracles happen everyday. Just be on the lookout for them.

It is of the Lord‘s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.

23 They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.

24 The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. (Lam. 3:22-24)

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Remembering the Wormwood

Remember the wormwood. Like a soft whisper to my soul, these words had snaked in and out of my mind some weeks ago, a reminder that is both welcome and necessary. For it is easy to become lax and complacent amid all the triumphs and joys, as if the fiery and bitter tests had not actually taken place but are only a part of a distant past. But I have learned, as I know others have also, that forgetting them and the great mercies of God that delivered us through them, is not the way of the Lord.

My original painting of white magnolia on 9" x 12" 100% cotton wc paper. Leterings were done using metallic ruby.

My original painting of white magnolia on 9″ x 12″ 100% cotton wc paper. Letterings were done using metallic ruby.

Lamentations 3, though full of anguish and sorrow, has always been beautiful to me as it was a powerful source of hope. Like the Book of Job, a story of trial of all trials, which had been my companion in my own bitter trials, Lamentations 3 was like a lamp in the dark forest, a hope in the soul that, though small and flickering, cannot be quenched.

Maybe the Lord doesn’t want me to be so engrossed with His gifts that delight my soul enormously. Like watercolor painting, for one. That I might forget how I arrived into this place of joy and unending inspiration. That the gifts would become more important and capture more of me than what I give to the Lord – my love, my joy, my time, my energy. For God is a jealous God.

Maybe that and the news about my aunt who is now suffering a similar sickness like one of the many that I had suffered: gastro-esophageal reflux disease or GERD. Twice in the past 13 years of illness, I had not been able to eat solid food for months, even more than half of the year. I lived by water, clear soups, and runny porridge. It was as if my stomach had lost recognition of food.

But I lived through it. And now I’m eating well again. Every now and then, like when I bite into a luscious fruit, I remember this.

Remembering the mercies of God stirs up praise and worship from the depths of our soul. Not only that. It also makes us remember to fear God and keep a humble posture before Him and reignites our desire to walk uprightly.

And so, amid the swirls and splashes of watercolors, the lights and shadows that are created by the stroke of a red sable brush on a rag paper, in between the image that is slowly emerging out of it and the exultant heart, is the whisper: Remember the wormwood.

“Yes, Father, I do remember,” my soul whispers back.

The author of the Book of Lamentations (he sounds like the Prophet Jeremiah to me and he might very well be the one who penned it) recalls the heart-rending, soul-wrenching times that he had seen, lived, and suffered through. The scope of the first half of chapter 3 is a very familiar terrain to me, like the well-worn path that leads to home. You know the position of every stone and tree and the shadows that dance against the sunlight peeking through. So familiar you could almost assign a scent to it, redolent of the hard days when God’s hand was heavy upon one’s soul. These words, they are that to me.

am the [woman] who has seen affliction by the rod of His wrath.
He has led me and made me walk
In darkness and not in light.
Surely He has turned His hand against me
Time and time again throughout the day.

He has besieged me
And surrounded me with bitterness and woe.

He has hedged me in so that I cannot get out;
He has made my chain heavy.
Even when I cry and shout,
He shuts out my prayer.

He has filled me with bitterness,
He has made me drink wormwood.

Remember my affliction and roaming,
The wormwood and the gall.
My soul still remembers
And sinks within me.
This I recall to my mind,
Therefore I have hope.

(Selections from Lamentations 3)

Wormwood is a plant that has a bitter taste, the main ingredient in making absinthe. Today, it is considered as a natural therapeutic herb and used as an alternative medicine, especially in cleansing harmful microorganisms in humans and animals. “Wormwood is known to help the body produce an environment that is toxic to harmful organisms.”*

God concocts a drink made up of wormwood and makes us drink of it, the whole cup of it. His tests are bitter and grievous and brings us a lot of anguish and sorrow. But not without purpose. God, being the Creator of every plant that grows in the earth, knows each of their nature. He used wormwood in the Old Testament to symbolize the bitter trials and also the cleansing process – refining and sanctification – His people must go through which is His main purpose.

These trials and chastisements – they all emanate from His heart of love and mercy. 

As our Father, He knows there are things we need to learn. The process, like the words of Lamentations, is excruciating, but the end of it is a pure product.

when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. (Job 23:10)

These I remember. Oh yes, Father, these I remember and have not forgotten! They come to mind when I sing praises and worship, like fragmented scenes in a good movie. Remembering them colors my praises with more vibrant, deeper hues and makes my worship a soulfelt experience. They are the tangible proofs of the Savior’s love for me.

Only last night at dinner, I recalled again how I lived through the valley of the shadow of death in early-2015 (that place where the shadow of death literally covers you and wraps you all around). When all day long everyday, I fought to be able to breathe and live. How I would wait for Tim to arrive home from school, when he would nap beside me in the bed straightaway, and I would snuggle close to him and try to pick up the easy rhythm of his healthy breathing. As I held him, I breathed with him, hoping to ease up my own, calm my body, and live with him, too. For days and months, Tim unknowingly comforted me. While he was sleeping. (Choking back tears now).

I whispered to my husband as Tim left the dining table, “That boy is so precious to me.”

Remembering the wormwood is not to taste again the bitterness, but to affirm the truth that God is just and merciful. That even in that place of affliction, wormwood and gall – there is hope!

To remember the wormwood is to position and reposition ourselves again on the higher ground, not giving in to temptations as the good, blessed days roll by.

To remember the wormwood is to let ourselves be cleansed and sanctified by Christ again and again. To become like the white and fragrant flowers (the white Magnolia is a good example), whose sweet-smelling scent wafts to all the people around us wherever we go and which reaches the throne of God in heaven.

Let your gentleness [and holiness] be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. (Phil. 4:5, annotation mine)

*Global Healing Center

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Journey with Jesus,

My Treasure Chest

I have a treasure chest where I stash all my wealth in this world. I haven’t realized how much it has grown, but the last time I looked, my treasures have accumulated and lay in a heap, untouched, just waiting for me to come and do an inventory again. Taking stock of my wealth is a wonderful task. Wonderful, in the truest sense of the word: it elicits in me feelings of awe and wonder. And the fruit of it is praise and thanksgiving to God from the core of my being, like a spring of water that must find its way to the surface.

gems-2

I had heard it said that one of my unmarried granduncles, when he was still living, would sit up in the middle of the night, take out his box of money and count his worldly wealth. Single to the day of his death, he had lived simply and stingily and kept all his money, the bills neatly folded and bound, in a box where no one could touch it. It was said that after he died, the box was discovered under his bed – no instructions as to whom he intended to bequeath it.

Maybe he wanted to hold onto it and feel the comfort and security of possessing so much even to his death. Maybe it was his god. For in the absence of God in one’s life, one is bound to worship someone or something.

I would have done that, too, had God not taken me and showed me how to really live.

If my granduncle sat up in the middle of the night to take stock of his money, I too, sometimes open my chest and take out my treasures. One by one, I place them under the light where I can gaze at them and marvel once again at their beauty and how they have enriched my life.

The sparkling, colorful sapphires of answered prayers scattered all over the place. The deepest red rubies of the Lord Jesus Christ’s unfailing love, poured out in Calvary, washing away my sin. The opalescent stones of His enduring mercy and compassion that come in shifting colors in each ushering in of dawn – ultramarine blue, indigo, lilac, purple, burnt sienna, quinacridone gold, rose madder, carmine, vermillion – like the colors of the majestic sky when darkness gives in to light. They are new every morning! 

I pick up the strings of pearls that seem to have no end, their pearlescence shines the more when the light kisses it. They are His words that will never pass away, spoken to me through His prophets and apostles of old and His whispers of reminders and instructions through His Holy Spirit. I lay them down and see the golds, shining brightly like lamps in the dark, tests and trials in the fiery furnace of God which have turned into pure gold. It’s only through that (heaving one huge sigh) that the ore can be turned into gold. When he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. Yes, these words from the lips of Job I have echoed through the years of difficult trials of faith.

Covering the bottom of the chest, I touch the cold, many-faceted stones. And when the light catches them, they wink at me – glittering, dancing diamonds of God’s faithfulness. They cover me with their blinding brilliance.

I am very rich.

My sapphires come in varying colors: blue, pink, viridian, crimson, magenta, amber, and orange. They are the answered prayers that I hold close to my bosom: each one a beautiful story of a different hue; each one a powerful testimony of God’s goodness and faithfulness. I know each one of them. It would be a sin to forget any one of them, and yet, can we really account for all of them?

There was my prayer for a close relationship with my daughter Hannah. She was a little girl when I got ill, only two. I ceased to play with her or walk with her or bring her to school. I was busy getting healed or fighting fear and death. Our home wasn’t normal. There were no family dinners, playdates, trips to the mall… My husband threw himself to the management of the company I left in a huff, before it was too late to save it. My illness kept me bound in bed or a chair. And Hannah was left in the care of a nanny.

She began to be estranged from me. Each day that passed, I saw that she was growing to dislike me. When I called her, she didn’t want to come near. When I wanted to talk to her, she wouldn’t open her mouth. When I asked her to play with her toys at my feet, she hated it.

So, I prayed. I prayed and begged the Lord to not let me lose my daughter, too, because of my illness. Night and day I prayed that my daughter and I would become so close as a mother and daughter should be.

One day when she was in Kinder 2, barely three months before the school year ended, she decided to stop going to school. No amount of convincing or trick or pleading worked. One morning, both her Dad and I brought her to school hoping that she would be enticed to stay in school again. But she clutched at the steering wheel so tight she could have pulled it out of its attachment had we not finally relented. We faced the scary reality of our child not wanting to be in school, for how long, we had no idea. And we were devastated.

I was truly depressed because I know of a girl when I was in grade school in the province who suddenly stopped going to school at grade 4 and never left their house from then on to this day.

Later on, we learned from the mother of Hannah’s friend in school that Hannah had been confiding to her daughter how it made her so sad leaving me at home sick. I was the more devastated that it was my illness that affected her decision to stay at home. I wanted her to have a normal, happy childhood, despite my illness.

I didn’t want her to be left behind so I assumed the role of a homeschooling Mama. Thankfully, I was strong enough in those days to be able to do so. So everyday I taught her – math, reading, writing, arts. We ate together during lunch break and in the afternoons, we napped side by side.

When she went to the park with her nanny, she always came back with a flower for me. She was always by my side, asking me how I was when I was in bed.

One night during my private worship, the Lord spoke in my heart.

“I have answered your prayer. I have made you and your daughter very close. I want you to be happy. I love you.”

I sobbed in gratitude and awe.

So, all the time that I thought my daughter’s future had been ruined because of my illness, it was actually the Lord’s design so that I would feel the love that binds a mother and a daughter even in the midst of illness. Friends in church noticed our closeness and mentioned it. My husband told them it was an answered prayer.

The next school year, Hannah went back to school. And happily.

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Journey with Jesus,

Unbroken Fellowship

We need not hide ourselves from the presence of God when He comes walking through our midst in the cool of the day, unlike what Adam and Eve did after committing the great act of disobedience: eating of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, the very thing that God told them not to touch. All that is past — because of what the Lord Jesus has done.

walk in the light

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Eph. 2:13)

We have been reconciled to God through the death of His Son (see Rom. 5:10). Because of Jesus, our fellowship with the Father has been restored. Now, we have peace with Him, basking in His love, light, peace and joy. We walk with Him in the garden in the cool of the day (that is, where He has sown us) in our intertwined spirits: our spirit being one with His Spirit in worship. But it’s really more than that. Since we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, this fellowship with Him is unbroken. It doesn’t only happen when we fall on our knees, raise our hands, and sing praises to Him from the depths of our heart and soul. It is walking with Him moment by moment. An unbroken communion.

We can have it as much and as often as we want to.

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Rom. 5:1-2)

But sometimes, our plans and schedules seem to have a stronger pull than our desire to meet with God in prayer and worship, especially at the start of the day. Maybe our cellphones promise more fun as we are tempted to open them first thing, checking on likes and comments on the photos we had shared, or messages and emails that came in while we were asleep. Sometimes, these worldly things, though small time, seem more attractive to us and we fall into their charms, more eager for them than to spend time in the presence of the Lord.

To maintain an unbroken fellowship with the Lord takes much more discipline than we think. The desire to draw near to Him doesn’t come out of the blue, without any effort on our part. If we want to draw near, we do just that – we take the necessary step to get closer. How can we become closer to him when our hearts and minds are far away? When they are in another place? Even when we are in the act of worship, praising and praying before Him, it may happen that our minds are already on other things, on the plans we have made for the day, perhaps anticipating the words we are going to write on our blogs, the food we are going to prepare for the family (even dinner later tonight!), that trip to the mall or the library, etc. etc.

We don’t want God to say of us:

“These people draw near to Me with their mouth,
And honor Me with their lips,
But their heart is far from Me.” (Mat. 15:8)

If we want a God-honoring life, we must be mindful of the things we think, say, and do, the little decisions we have to make moment by moment. We may ask ourselves: Should I hold my gadget again and open to social media? Or is that habit or addiction already offensive to God? If it’s irritating to our family seeing us continually absorbed in our gadgets such as our cellphone, endlessly browsing that seemingly bottomless newsfeed and watching every posted video, how much more the holy God who wants all of our heart, mind, and soul?

We must give God the best time of our day, the moment we wake up in the morning. Then, as we go through our day, doing our chores, our work, and the things that make our hearts burst in happiness (writing, painting, gardening, knitting, and baking, perhaps), even in our gathering around the table and eating, telling stories and playing – we can maintain that communion with Him. We can invite Him into our activities, silently lifting up prayers, praises, and thanksgiving towards heaven. As if He is always there in our midst. And He is, as long as our hearts are ever open to Him and our minds thinking on Him, flitting from the task at hand to Him and so on.

He said so Himself:

“…I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Mat. 15:8)

For Christ followers like me who have gone through various hard trials, we know how vital it is to have an unbroken access to the throne of grace. We know how unrelenting knocking on heaven’s door, unceasing whispering of prayers and urgent requests against our pillow, endlessly mulling on and affirming and declaring the Word over our life – are so essentially important in the midst of illness and suffering.

And because of this rigid training in the crucible, this discipline in our spiritual life spills over even when the testing is over, in seasons of flourishing and fruitfulness. Gratitude flows interminably like waterfalls faithfully following its course down the mountain. It is this ever-present gratefulness that reminds us to abide in the light and love of the Lord, to shut off the noise of the world and tune in to His still, small voice and catch His words with our hands and tuck them safely in our hearts, yes, even as the laughter rings out around the table and food is being savored by everyone.

We can have that perpetual conversation with Him, bringing smiles to our lips in the middle of unsuspecting family and friends’ chatter.

Have you fostered that kind of relationship with the Lord? Are you used to thinking on Him, remembering Him, and enjoying Him even in our busyness? It is possible, because His light pouring out on us is never broken.

But if we [really] walk in the Light [that is, live each and every day in conformity with the precepts of God], as He Himself is in the Light, we have [true, unbroken] fellowship with one another [He with us, and we with Him], and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin [by erasing the stain of sin, keeping us cleansed from sin in all its forms and manifestations]. (1 John 1:7 AMP)

I cannot sing in worship because of my weak diaphragm, but I endeavor to sing even just one song in the morning and in the evening. And in that one song, I do my best to give all my mind, heart, and soul to God and reach the throne of grace until I feel His touch and tears fall. It is an unequalled power and strength.

When our hearts and minds are in the dark, confused, doubtful, tempted, weak – step into His light. Come before Him with humble, contrite hearts. We don’t need to rip our garments in deep repentance, but we can tear the layer of sin or coldness around our hearts and let Him in.

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (James 4:8)

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Journey with Jesus,

Experiencing the Word

Living out God’s Word, that is, putting it into practice in our daily lives (e.g. “Love one another as I have loved you”), is not the same when I say, “experiencing the Word.” To experience God’s Word, for me, means that we live through it, letting it seep in and through our flesh (every pore and vein and nerve where life pulsates), our feelings (whether they be peace or fear, joy or depression, etc.), our minds (that sense and strength of reason), and our souls (that vital part of us that strains to connect with the Divine). Where “living out the Word” entails an act of obedience, “experiencing the Word” is walking through and dwelling in it in faith and letting its power work mightily in and for us.

experiencing the Word

We may do it for healing and strength, to usher in peace and unbroken hope, or to deepen  our faith. Or just simply to enter into worship.

When we set out to experience God’s Word, we are positioning ourselves to receive with open hearts and hands. Mostly for me, experiencing God’s Word is borne out of desperation.

January 2004. We had just received salvation weeks before, and amid the chaos brought about by my undiagnosed illness, the speedy and unstoppable waning of my strength and the skyrocketing of my fears and panic, we scrambled to grow and strengthen our faith. Felix was learning to worship by singing praises and I was reading the Word as if my life depended on it (and in truth, it did).

On that January morning, I had just eaten a meager breakfast and as I slowly let my weak body touch my propped up pillows, my insides trembling, my nerves humming like a motor all over my body, and my back felt like it wasn’t there, I tried to grasp strength from the praise music playing on the cassette player. Weak and dizzy, my body wanted to succumb to sleep, but I was afraid to give in to it, thinking I might not wake up again. But when I closed my eyes, the vision of the Lord Jesus coming in the clouds in all His glory played on the terrain of my mind.

There was brightness all over me there as I beheld the Lord, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; and his feet like unto fine brass… and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength (see Rev. 1:13-16). 

The vision’s message was: Someday, whether I am asleep or awake, at the trumpet’s call, the Lord will come to take me (and all who believe in Him) and I will be forever with Him in eternity. There was nothing to fear. He has sealed me for eternal life where God shall wipe away all tears from [my] eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away (Rev. 21:4).

That vision with its powerful message instantly calmed my flesh and fears and I went to sleep in peace and comfort. It was my first Word-experience and it brought me strength and hope for the months and years that followed.

Later that year, I lay in a cot in one corner of the chapel of our church’s fasting house in a nearby province. Living in the chapel where there were long hours of praise and worship, morning and evening, and workers and payer warriors praying and fasting brought me spiritual strength as I continued to battle my illness. I was leaning heavily on my Savior, Healer, and Comforter.

Lying there, my insides, though empty, wanting to rise up to my throat, threatening to cut the air, I played in my mind the Bible scene where Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, implored the Lord to come heal his daughter. Being in internal panic myself moment by moment, I could relate to this frantic father’s desperation.

His young, only daughter lay in bed at home, dying. Every single second was essential. He has heard of the Miracle Worker who healed the sick, made the lame walk, and opened the blind’s eyes. His daughter’s miracle was within reach. He only had to make haste. When he finally found Him, he dropped to his knees and begged Him to come.

“I will come,” was the Lord’s calm reply. They set out, but a delay was inevitable. Another desperate soul desired to be healed. It had been 12 long years of waiting and she believed, now was her time. After the brief delay, someone from Jairus’ house came to tell him that his daughter was dead.

What now? I imagined Jairus’ heart stopping for a beat or two, and his knees threatening to buckle down. But before earth and sky came crashing on him, the Lord was quick to assure him, “Be not afraid, only believe.”

Over and over as fear and illness threatened to snuff the life out of me, I played that scene in my mind. When I felt like I was losing the battle, I believed and trusted in the depths of my soul that Jesus cared for me, as much as He cared for the woman who crawled behind to touch the hem of His garment and Jairus’ dying daughter, and so, He wouldn’t fail me, too. Even at the throes of death. I clung to this with every weak heartbeat and incomplete breath: “Fear not. Only believe”,  imagining the Lord assuring me with eyes of compassion and power. (See Mark 5).

During one of those long seasons where illness and suffering defined my days, I relived the story of the hapless Syro-Phoenician mother and every time I did, hot tears spilled copiously as sob after sob, I reasoned with the Lord just as she did.

Wanting so much to be relieved of my suffering, I begged the Lord to let me pick up crumbs that fell from the children’s table. I was willing to be like a dog if that was what would move His hand to heal me. I knew that I had been made a daughter of God (John 1:12) and had access for a good seat “at the table”. Meaning, His promises had been made available to me when I received Jesus into my life, just as Apostle Peter had written: His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises (see 2 Pet. 1:3, 4).

But if it pleased the Lord that I humbled myself and showed Him how much I wanted healing and be so bold as to importune Him for it, then I would gladly do it. And so, for a season, I became that Syro-Phoenician mother begging for the crumbs of healing for the sake of my young children.

But the most beautiful reliving of the Word I have ever experienced was the story of my own salvation seen through the encounter between the adulterous woman who was about to be stoned to death and the Lord Jesus. That scene, which was taken from the movie Passion of the Christ, was used in a music video featuring the song You Raise Me Up. While I listened to it, I saw myself in filthy rags, daring to raise my face toward the Savior as He gently lifted me up from the miry clay and assuring me with so much love and mercy, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” (see John 8).

Aahh! The power of that moment! It gripped me so profoundly I could only sob and praise in eternal gratitude!

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Journey with Jesus,