Hope for the New Year

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

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

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

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

More Purposeful (More Living)

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

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

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

More Fruitful

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More brave

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sharing with you some of our Christmas photos:

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Putting Meaning and Purpose Into (Hard) Life

The theme for Hannah’s Junior High Dance this year is 90s fashion. I thought that it would be easier to just buy fabric and send it to our dressmaker rather than browsing online or sending the husband and daughter to look for 90s cocktail dress in the malls. I graduated from college at the turn of the 90s decade and wore a very shiny black and silver dress with puffy sleeves. My mother borrowed it from our neighbor whose daughter then worked in Japan as an entertainer. But then, Hannah’s dress requirements excluded dark colors and only allowed pastel ones. Since my daughter is endowed with the Filipino brown skin like a perfectly toasted bread (well, not quite), we had limited choices. We settled for a very light peach satin fabric which Felix bought at our favorite shop, Carolina’s House of Lace.

I used metallic gold and other metallic paints in painting this rose.

I used metallic gold and other metallic paints in painting this rose.

It’s also a good thing that Hannah’s school, although one of the few fine international schools in the country, is a school that doesn’t promote luxury or sexy dresses for its students, two things that we ourselves avoid like the plague, being Christians. Also, in keeping with a modest and simple Christian life, it is already a given that I will not commission an expensive fashion designer, or dressmaker for that matter, to make my daughter’s dress. So, as usual, the fabric was sent to a sister in Christ who also happens to be a humble dressmaker.

When the dress was finished though, it looked too simple and unattractive. It was just plain peach all over, like pale lips. Even Hannah, whose taste is really simple and who doesn’t have a fashionista bone in her body, found it plain and boring. But rather than toss it away and buy one from the mall, I thought of ways of embellishing it. At dawn the next day, I had my solution. Before the day ended, Felix had gone back to Carolina’s to buy a lovely appliqué. And because it was my idea and there was no other who could do it, I took in the task of laborious needlework.

Now you have to understand that my illness makes me constantly dizzy and there are times it’s hard to focus. I also have overall body weakness. My legs, arms, and hands are not strong, so much so that I cannot carry more than a glass of water (and that with both hands) or cannot clip my own nails.

For days I labored with the needlework of Hannah’s dress, sewing the appliqué into the sleeves cascading down beyond the waist. Every leaf and vine and around every petal. One time I got so tired that I went through a suffering bout once again. But when I had recovered, I went back to it again, like a soldier that waxes bold with every wound sustained.

Felix warned me of exhausting myself and suffering in the process, but I told him that I wanted to do it. I needed to do it. With my ailing life, I cannot do things that most mothers normally do. In fact, as a sick person who lives on this earth, there are so many things that I am unable to do. My life is not normal. And because of that, I want that the little things that I could actually do, I would do it with my whole heart, even when it involves sacrifice. Maybe especially so. Then that would be more meaningful.

I told Felix, with a crack in my voice, that I want to perform my role as a wife, a mother, and a Christ follower to the best of my limited ability and strength and lots of God’s grace. It is only through it that my life, no matter how hard and limited and not normal, finds purpose and meaning.

Two posts ago, I wrote about life’s ultimate purpose and meaning, and that is knowing, receiving, and living in God’s love and being one with Him in spirit. But that truth needs to be translated into daily life. How does it look like woven into the individual threads of our ordinary moments and days?

When I was well and strong many years ago, finding purpose and meaning to life was easy. I embarked on a career that was my life’s dream and put up my own company. To the strong, valiant and meaningful pursuits are all possible. But not to the weak. The physically weak. Like me.

I have read many of Ms. Joni Eareckson Tada’s books especially her autobiographies and had frequently visited her website and I have observed that she has accomplished so much, maybe more than a strong and healthy person could ever have. And for me, that’s not too hard to analyze. Although she doesn’t mention it in any of her books, I understand her need to find meaning, purpose, and fulfilment in her life. I understand that very much. When one is an A-1 person, the desire and need to make one’s life meaningful, one that leaves a mark, are great.

Joni is an A-1 person and she is also a quad. But she worked so very hard to put meaning and purpose to her life. Never mind that she’s a famous Christian author, founder and CEO of her organization, Joni and Friends, and an accomplished artist (she paints holding the brush between her teeth). But she also does gardening (I imagine she supervises the gardener) and many other pursuits.

It’s the same with me. No, I’m not following Joni’s footsteps (or wheelchair marks). I also want to pour meaning and purpose into my life even if I am homebound. I didn’t plan in writing two books and blogging, or learning to paint with watercolors, or learning to bake. I just followed my heart and ended up there. Then I realized that, yes, maybe that’s the heart of the weak and disabled: they want their life to matter in spite of.

So, they work harder than the strong no matter how hard it is.

When I was in high school, I had a favorite quotation and it somehow guided me through college and beyond.

“The secret of life is not just to live, but to have something worthwhile to live for”.

(I’m sorry but I have forgotten the source).

We live for God. But that is translated into countless, manifold ways. We may do it through our roles as mother, wife, friend, writer/blogger, artist, sister, daughter, neighbor, employer, co-worker, and so on. Whatever role we play, we want it to be meaningful and with purpose. Especially – eternal purpose.

Hannah's dress and the appliqué I sewed onto it.

Hannah’s dress and the appliqué I sewed onto it.

By the time I finished Hannah’s dress, I couldn’t lift my left arm. It was limp and shaking from its socket. Sacrifices. Maybe they bring the best meaning to life.

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