Home

Home is all I know of now. When you come visiting, I’m always home. You know when you’re homebound and unable to travel, there is always home. Being strapped home is not so bad. I’m grateful for home. I thank the Lord everyday for our beautiful home. Beautiful, not only because of the things found inside and the patch of green grass, plants, and trees that comprises our small garden outside. Beautiful because the Lord shines His light upon it. He sits upon the throne of our love, adoration, and praises. I can feel His constant presence within the walls of our home and out there in our patio.

Hubby's photo of Taal Lake as viewed from Canyon Woods.

Hubby’s photo of Taal Lake as viewed from Canyon Woods.

But home had not always been lovely for me and my young family, the kind which caresses your heart and soul in peace so that you want to breathe out a whisper toward heaven, “Thank You, God!”

We were still in the early days of building our home together, Hannah was a few weeks old baby, when my husband and I had an ugly fight which turned out into him clearing off his closet and leaving, and I, baffled and totally heartbroken. When you love perfect in everything, a wrecked marriage and home could be your ruin, too.

And so, our beautiful house became just that for me: a place where I went to at the end of a busy work day. No love, no family, no peace. Happiness was superficial and joy was foreign.

When the Lord finally restored us, His forgiveness, salvation and unconditional love pouring out upon our wrecked lives, I was too sick to keep house. I watched our mended family while I went in and out of near-drowning in fear and illness, and that didn’t comfort me. For years after our salvation and restoration, I lived in fear, uncertainty, and joylessness, the constant companions of sickness and suffering.

For the past 13 years where I experienced intermittent episodes of partial healing and recovery and of becoming sicker and walking under the shadow of death, home had become fragmented for me, offering little parts of it where I could hide and hope to find relief. There was Hannah’s room, then a vacant room adjacent to it (which was to become Tim’s room), the garage, the dining area.

In December 2004, I didn’t want to stay home. I thought that if I did, I would drown in fear and sickness and die. And so we stayed in our church’s fasting house in Pampanga. I wanted us to rent an apartment near it and live there indefinitely. But on New Year’s Day, God spoke to me: “Go home, my child. Wherever you go, I am there with you.” Since that day until 2006, I was home.

In 2006, home for me were the road and the places of crusades we went to all over Luzon. Certainly, an episode of partial healing and recovery.

The years that followed saw me giving birth to Tim and then sicker and weaker again that traveling, however near, posed a threat to my life. There were weeks and months that I made my home in our Astrovan parked in our garage. I lay in the van’s bed all day, protected from the curious eyes of neighbors and passersby by a small square of batik cloth and an umbrella anchored between the van’s rear door and the garage gate when it rained.

Then there was the time my husband moved the bed from the guest room into the dining room near the lanai door. Marichris’, our housekeeper and also my caregiver, silent movements in the kitchen were a comfort. And so I lay there all day for weeks and months until our own bedroom was a welcome refuge for my very sick self once again.

For years I coveted the lives and homes of our neighbors where there was no sickness but only happiness and normal living.

But with my steadfast faith and persevering prayers (and those in our Church led by our beloved pastor) and growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ through His Word, came healing (though partial), strength, fresh hope, and inspiration once again. And this time, it is sturdier than all that came before. Because of the enduring mercies of God. Because He hears and honors the prayer of the faithful.

Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy. (James 5:11)

I don’t know how it happened, but it looks like the Lord has lifted off the shroud of fear and gloom of my heart and home, and in its place, He set His good and perfect gifts: His shimmering light and daily doses of His unfailing love, grace, strength, beauty, inspiration, and joy.

There is true beauty and peace in our faithful and intentional abiding in Him and His Word. His presence in our lives and our deep awareness of it are power. 

Our home. Those mounted watercolor poppies are my work – praise God. They bring brightness to our living room.

Inspiration that oozes from my worshiping heart drives me to make our home beautiful, not only with the furniture (the arranging and re-arranging of them), the decor, the knickknacks, the fresh flowers in vases, the books in the shelves, the scents of pearly lavender bath or freshly-cut grass, but also with the conversations, laughters, playtimes, acts of love and kindness and sacrifices, celebrations, reconciliations, and all others that make a house a home.

The Lord has heaped His blessings upon me that my prayers and thanksgivings are never empty and futile and my days are full of color and meaning. Though in other people’s eyes, the blessings may look like trickles (they look that way to me sometimes, with me still not fully well, strong, and walking), they are actually honey drops from heaven, sweet to the soul and health to the bones.

Yes, by God’s wonderful grace, I am making our home beautiful in every sense of the word, but home for me, that true, peace- and love-filled home, is really in the arms of my Savior. Not literally, but like in the cleft of the Rock, where when my heart is overwhelmed, He leads me to the rock that is higher than I (Ps. 61:2), safe and comforted under the shadow of His wings and in His hand where no one can pluck me out (see John 10:28).

If I had known then that being still in my own bed (where it’s far more comfortable) and trusting God to come through for me wherever I was in our house, I wouldn’t have acted in panic in previous years. But maybe, my fears were more powerful than my faith then. Or maybe, it is now God’s perfect time to deliver me out of those paralyzing fears and let me bask in His peace and joy.

Last year when I fought fiercely for my life once again, I didn’t have the desire (nor the strength for that matter) to flee my room. In the deep recesses of my mind and soul, I held on to God’s powerful promises and made them my home. My sanctuary. And He met me there. I think of David’s words:

Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. (Ps. 4:4)

Home is wherever we are held tightly by our loving, faithful God.

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A Tale of Two Homes

There are homes that shatter, the sound of which cannot be kept from people who are curious but do not really care. And there are homes whose lights flicker for a while, then slowly die down. And there is only darkness. Such a home quietly closes, as if to say, “You’ll soon forget me.”

(image from Google)

When we first arrived in our beautiful home in a dream subdivision in a quiet suburb, life was full of promise. My first-born was only two weeks old, a cute baby girl I had earnestly prayed for. My friend came to visit while we were finalizing the renovations and she exclaimed, “Your house is like a church!” She was exaggerating, of course, but she was reacting to the arched french double doors that led to the kitchen. We were both quite ignorant to be in a big beautiful house since we both grew up in the far-flung province.

Then I met one of our neighbors. They had been here many years before. One of the first few homeowners in this place. She was matronly and carried herself regally. She also spoke proudly and didn’t smile. Or so that’s what I remember. The former owners of our house were not in good terms with her. But though I liked their house, I didn’t plan to be like them. I didn’t see any problem with our matronly neighbor. She came to visit while I was in bed rest. I was not scared with her quite pompous attitude. I was actually amused by it.

She had grandchildren who went to prestigious schools. As Hannah grew up, she became friends with them and they played in the street every morning.

Unbeknownst to our neighbors, my husband Felix had finally left because of a violent and painful fight we had. I could not understand. I felt like my whole life came crumbling down. I was hurt and confused and I believed in my heart that my husband was too weak to care for his family and hold it together with all his might. The light died down in our home. I had a beautiful house, a flourishing company, a successful career, and a strong and healthy body. But our home was broken. And my daughter had not even turned one.

Two years. Two years before the Lord Jesus found us and redeemed our marriage and restored our family. But I had lost my strong and healthy body. Nonetheless, a light began to flicker in our home once again. The light of the Savior.

In 2004, while I was fighting for my life against my undiagnosed illness, our neighbor’s son, a businessman, took his own life, leaving his wife and little children behind. The youngest was only a month old. It was before Christmas. If ever our stately neighbor was deeply affected by it, it didn’t show. She remained to look dignified and regal. I marvelled at her resilience and confidence.

She had a life partner for three decades. They were always together. They were happy and enjoyed each other’s company. That I could see.

Then came the kidney disease and the never-ending twice-weekly dialysis. They told us about it when they came to my son’s dedication. We brought them to our Church’s ordained preacher and she was prayed over. We hoped and prayed that they will continue with the Lord Jesus Christ. We invited them every Sunday for a while. But they never wanted to come with us to Church.

Then came the triple heart bypass surgery. My heart trembled every time she was fetched by an ambulance. I was so scared to think that she might die. I sent DVDs of our Church’s worship service that she could watch while convalescing. I could never be sure if she watched them.

She began to use the wheelchair. But her poise remained with her. It looked to me like she never wanted to let go of beauty and vanity. She had somebody come regularly to do her nails and to color and style her hair. I marvelled at her tenacity. Or maybe she wanted to remain beautiful in the eyes of the love of her life, her college sweetheart.

But if marriage vows can be dishonored, what will happen in the absence of them? He left. For good. Without her knowing of the plan. When I learned about it, I ached for her sake. How can the light of a home, of a love, of a person, fade slowly and excruciatingly painfully?

This, this should have been their everything.

Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” (John 8:12, emphasis mine)

During one of the rare afternoons that I could go around our village, I saw her in her wheelchair under the Narra tree. I don’t want to say I was shocked by what I saw for I don’t want to dishonor her. But the first, almost instinctive, reaction I had was to run to Jesus in my heart, in that secret place, and cling to Him. That is what a portrait of fading away does to a weak spirit like mine. I draw strength from my Savior.

I had wondered, sorrowfully, “Is this what dialysis does to a person? It sucks the life out of you ever so slowly, but surely, until there is nothing left?” Amid those questions I had tightly clung to Jesus again. I know how to be near the edge of death’s door. I had been there many times. But Life that comes from the Lord Jesus Christ gave life to my dying body and keeps the light burning in my soul. And in my eyes. For all to see. Hallelujah!

12 For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.

13 You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. 14 He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. (Col. 2:12-14 NLT, emphasis mine)

I saw the difference between a diseased body that is owned by the Savior and one whose light has completely gone.

Then one day, she was gone. I stared long and hard at their house. It stood silently. And desolate.

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Journey with Jesus,