On Sacrifice {A Family Tale}

The daddy leaves for church on a Sunday morning, alone this time because the two kids, who sing in different choirs, Children’s and Youth, are both sick, but not after cooking food, chicken adobo for the kids (their Sunday staple) and sinigang (fish and fish roe in sour broth with vegetables) for the mommy. The teenage daughter comes down and settles in bed beside her mom (who has been ailing these past 14 years), feverish and with a headache. The almost-ten son is just recovering from chicken pox. By God’s grace, the pustules are just few and they are now flattening down and drying out. Except for those, he is well and roams around the house as usual.

This magenta rose still needs some polishing to make it more sleek, but art, though it brings so much joy and is freeing, it could also be a sacrifice. That is, for an ailing artist like me.

This magenta rose still needs some polishing to make it more sleek, but art, though it brings so much joy and is freeing, it could also be a sacrifice. That is, for an ailing artist like me.

The maid left a few days ago, and although she didn’t want to leave, she had no choice. Her teenage middle son stopped going to school because he wanted his mother to be home.

So, the family is alone at present because the employment agencies are vacant. They have nobody to send. Most maids are now found abroad. Greener pastures.

All Sunday, the little boy tended to both mother and sister (who are stationed in bed) while the father worshiped the Lord in church which is from 10 in the morning to 5 in the afternoon.

Maybe already tired, twice he brought to the bedroom the pot of dish itself to serve food to the sick. But the mommy is so very thankful for the food he served. It definitely brought sustenance to their weak bodies.

Although the kids are used to assisting their sick mom and have both learned how to respond and act on her signs when she is so unwell, they haven’t completely learned to not complain. The teenager may not voice out her complaints, but often, her face says it all. And the little boy? He complains incessantly when he is not his sweet self. For when he is sweet (for he is a very sweet boy, indeed), he’s an angel.

The mother thinks they complain because they believe that they should not be serving like that. Their classmates in the international school that they attend are probably not required to serve. For the mom has yet to see a home in the village they live in (and she knows for certain in the homes of her kids’ classmates) which doesn’t employ a maid or two.

The kids grew up having maids around, but the mommy believes that it should not hinder her desire to train them to help with chores. Whenever the family finds itself maidless, the kids know how to sweep and mop the floors, clean their rooms and bathrooms, wash dishes, cook, tend to the dogs, and answer to their mother’s calls. But this is nothing compared to her training growing up.

Many years ago in the province where life was generally hard and maids were unheard of, everyone in the family, except the baby in the cradle, helped. She doesn’t fail to tell these stories to the kids, how the wooden and untiled floors must be waxed, then scrubbed with a coconut husk to make them shine, would take almost half a day and all your strength. How water must be fetched from the well across the street, for washing, laundry, and bathing. How they all washed their clothes by hand including bleaching the cloth diapers of the baby under the powerful sunshine, because Pampers and Huggies were just a figment of the imagination.

But she doesn’t think that they completely absorb these stories. They are so farfetched from the life they have now. They don’t know the hard life in the province.

And so the mother, while waiting out for good breathing and strength with tightly closed eyes, wish so much in her heart to teach and model to her children the virtue of sacrifice. To let them know that life in the Lord Jesus Christ is entirely different from the life in the world, especialy their friends’ and classmates’ lives. That it’s okay to be different as long as the reason for it is because they are children of God and followers of the Lord Jesus and His teachings. That serving others, even sacrificing for them, is a part and a virtue of the Christian life.

She wishes to teach all these and she frets in her spirit for she knows that her strength is not enough for lengthy Bible Study and discussion. But the desire will serve as a goal for her to rise up and serve her family, especially her children, in the ways of the Lord.

How she longs to teach them, as she also has recently learned, that serving and sacrificing are things not to be despised or shunned but to be embraced. She wants them to understand, as she is just beginning to understand it herself, that the serving and sacrificing life is not hidden from the eyes of God, and that, it will be rewarded, if not in the here and now, in eternity.

She knows that her family longs to travel, to see the world, like all families dream and strive of doing. She knows that her family looks at the world, at other families in their neighborhood and in school, and so desires to be like them. And she used to feel that way, too. But now she understands that, to truly follow Christ is to denounce the pleasures of the world. That even though they enjoy its offerings from time to time, it is not their life. It is not their way of life. But that their life is centered on the Lord Jesus Christ who, though He owned heaven and earth and is the King of kings, chose to be born in a smelly stable.

She understands it now, like the breaking of dawn through the pink-purple sky, that the cause of all her woes is because she desired things other than what the Lord is offering. 

She knows sacrifice, but because of wealth, she and her family dream of pleasurable and beautiful things. She knows that silent service, where God maybe the only audience, makes life deeply meaningful and rewarding. 

She remembers the days how her two caregivers (also nannies to the kids), both cousins of her husband, took care of her, bathed and fed her when she was too weak. On two separate occasions when one of them was bathing her, she touched their heads and expressed her gratitude and declared that their acts of love will be rewarded by the Lord.

And that is what she wants to teach her children, that sacrifice is always an act of love and nothing but. That a service when done grudgingly loses its helping and healing power and it only leaves heaviness in the spirit of the recipient. When a service is done with heavy heart, hand, and words, it is futile in the end. 

It is always this:

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. (1 Cor. 13:3)

And to always remember the Lord’s words:

And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ (Mat. 25:40)

Every act of love, every sacrifice, we do it to Him and for Him.

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Yearning

Though it hurts, yearning is good for my heart, that yearning for the Lord Jesus Christ. Do you know that kind of deep yearning, one that is borne out of desperation? That yearning that I am sure the woman who bled for 12 years had, or the leper who begged the Lord, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean”, or the father of the child with a dumb and deaf spirit who cried out with tears, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief!” Or Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue whose daughter lay at home dying.

This was just a quick sketch and dabble and though it's quite unfinished (the other flower needs more color), I enjoyed painting it just for the joy and freedom of painting.

This was just a quick sketch and dabble and though it’s quite unfinished (the other flower needs more color), I enjoyed painting it just for the joy and freedom of painting.

These all and many others had gone through indescribable desperation and sought the Lord Jesus’ help. I know there are still many out there that, like me, are going through the same. But that is the big difference between our stories and those stories in the Bible during the time of the Lord Jesus Christ: they had Him in the flesh, going about all the cities and villages, healing every sickness and every disease among the people. 

And that is where my yearning cuts deep: I want Him so much to be here, in the flesh, to see His eyes of compassion and feel His hands of mercy and healing. To be before Him, begging Him on my knees to deliver me from my sickness and suffering. Or even to crawl behind Him and be able to touch even the hem of His garment, then everything will be fine. Then healing would flow to my body and all would be well.

I long for Him, yes, so much that it hurts.

Sometimes I wonder, does He know our deepest longings? How does He feel about them? What does He want to do about them?

The Gospels tell us that, He was moved with compassion. And since Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8), He is still moved with compassion today.

He is still moved with compassion today. Let this truth steep our whole being from the crown of our heads to the soles of our feet.

But we need proof, don’t we? We want to experience this compassion in action from a compassionate God. We want to bask in our belovedness. For we are His beloved and He is ours.

Years ago when I was very sick again and languished in bed, I experienced the same yearning for God, to know His heart, to see His eyes. What did they see? What was their expression?

One day I was reading through The Book of Daniel and that encounter between him and the angel Gabriel touched me deeply that I had to put down my Bible and pondered on it. Gabriel told Daniel that He was a man greatly beloved. Three times the angel assured Daniel this, that he was a man greatly beloved by God.

How I wished I were in Daniel’s stead!

I closed my Bible and thought long and hard: “Am I also a woman greatly beloved by God?” I was no prophet. I hadn’t the wisdom or the faith and calling of Daniel. I was a woman whose sin was darker than the darkest night. And yet a woman who had received great mercy and grace from the compassionate God and complete forgiveness of my sins. And had been washed by the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ that flowed profusely in Calvary.

Didn’t He give His life to give me mine?

He loved me and died for me even when I was yet a sinner. So, am I a woman greatly beloved by Him? Is there doubt about that?

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom. 5:8)

But, I ask Felix my husband in a whisper, “Why is there so much suffering in the world? Why does God even allow it? Even to His children?” as I swipe away tears that sneak out at the corners of my eyes. He whispers back his reply, “I don’t know, My.”

And so we yearn. We long for His touch, for His eyes that look at us compassionately and being moved by what He sees. We long for heaven touching earth and healing everything that needs healing.

This deep longing, this yearning in the heart that is not totally quenched in the here and now – it is proof that we belong to Him eternally. That our hearts and souls carry with them a part of eternity. And that our longing hearts are proof that our love is not dead but is forever alive and beating for Him.

My heart beats for Him. And that is good.

The last time that I came through one of those horrible sufferings, I only felt love for my Savior – a quiet, steadfast, indestructible love – all glory to Him! I listened to praise and loved on Him, then I reached for my prayer journal and told Him how He is my all in all, my everything in every aspect of my life. How I live in Him and by Him and through Him. And for Him.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. (Rom. 8:18)

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Be Strong and Courageous

One day last week after a long suffering bout where I had felt like I was dangling over a deep canyon and just the tiniest error on my part or a soft whiff of wind would send me plummeting into the deep and… end, many confusing thoughts and swirling emotions gripped me. It was a moment that I didn’t want to analyze things anymore, that I was tired thinking, analyzing, and trying to understand what I was unable to comprehend anyway. I was thinking that once I had enough strength and good breathing, I was going to write on my journal this: “Lord, I don’t know what to do anymore.” I was so exhausted not only physically but in fighting spiritually or even mentally, trying to outsmart my sickness and suffering. For a change I wanted to just be lost and not think or do anything.

My daisy meadow from last year.

My daisy meadow from last year.

For what could a mere human do in the face of so much hardship? I thought about the unfairness of life: the wicked enjoying a long, healthy, and prosperous life, and the people that are still so needed by their families are taken away (here, I was thinking of my friend who passed away recently, leaving her 4 children orphans, for her husband had gone before her ten years prior).

So, I was facing yet another major bout of discouragement and hopelessness.

But just as soon as these feelings of weakness and lostness engulfed me, these words flashed in my mind in red letters: Be strong and courageous.

And instantly, I was renewed to be strong and courageous again.

Then I understood (again), that there was no other way, really, in this faith that we have been given. So, I comforted and encouraged myself with these words as the last few moments of recovery (from the attack) came to an end: “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (see Eph. 6:10).

I am not a stranger to this admonition. In fact, it is my battlecry in the 14 years of being sick and suffering. It has seen me through the dark valleys and stormy seas. In the face of great fear, uncertainties, suffering, discouragements, hopelessness, and wanting to give up, “Be strong and courageous” has always gained the upper hand.

Yes, to remain standing still after each storm. For the Lord Jesus Christ is able to make us stand.

…Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. (Rom. 14:4)

It is God’s power and grace that make us stand.

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (Eph. 6:11-13)

Having done all, to stand. I often think and wonder why, after doing all the things that I know are pleasing to God – obeying His commands, living His Word, and not neglecting to worship and commune with Him first and foremost – still, there are prayers, very important ones, that are left unanswered. Still, illness stays and suffering continues. After each and every suffering bout, I ask in the depths of my soul, like an anguished animal desperate for deliverance, “What else needs to be done?”

And when we only hear hollow echoes of our questions and not a clear answer, we either slump down in utter dejection and discouragement or become bitter, resentful, and more doubtful.

But the Apostle Paul exhorts that having done all, to still stand. Stand and not cave in. Stand and not doubt. Stand and forge on. Stand and be strong and courageous. Stand and be faithful to the end.

I know firsthand how this is not easily done, especially in the face of so much hardships and challenges. But it is what needs to be done. Our God commands it.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Josh. 1:9)

I am no Joshua, but I can make the other women of the Bible who had shown strength and courage in the face of life’s trials and challenges as my role models.

Esther

There is Esther who bravely faced her fate twice. First, as a candidate for queen among other young women. What if she had other plans for herself? All that had to be forgotten for she was brought to the palace to be prepared for one night with the king. What if she wasn’t chosen? She will be kept in the harem as the king’s concubine for life. A very daunting prospect.

But she did her best and became a shining star in the palace and earned the trust and respect of Hegai, custodian of the women, and the other girls. She wasn’t afraid even ensconced within the walls of the palace that could serve her prison for life.

Then there was the moment in her life as queen when she needed to approach the king and present her petition, putting her life on the line. For any one who had not been summoned by the king and presented themselves risked death.

Ruth

Who doesn’t love Ruth? A widow and a stranger to Israel being a Moabitess, she could have stayed behind with her family and the people she knew. But she cleaved to Naomi, her mother-in-law, and set her face to a pilgrimage to the land she had never been before, to a people and faith foreign to her, and to a God she had not known.

And yet, she had the heart and courage to face all that without being afraid. And then followed the back-breaking labor of gleaning barley from sunup to sundown.

And having done all, to stand.

Rahab

Who would forget Rahab? She was a brave and gutsy woman for sure. She didn’t only shine hiding the spies and bravely facing the king’s stewards who came knocking at her door demanding her to turn in the spies. But to turn her back from her old occupation and start a whole new life in the embrace of Israel and her God. From a prostitute to an Israel adoptee (even capturing Salmon’s heart), she bravely yielded herself to the challenges that she faced. It wouldn’t have been easy to live normally and blissfully and to be with only one man with the demons of her past visiting her many a sleepless night. The remembrance of her past life.

But having done all, to stand.

And then there is Mary the mother of the Lord Jesus. But we end here.

If I say, “My foot slips,”
Your mercy, O Lord, will hold me up. (Ps. 94:18)

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A Life of Gratefulness

The day I felt so ill that I forced myself to vomit to be able to breathe and relieve me of dizziness, gratefulness triumphed once again. The episode was scary just like the others, but this one made me panic more. And even though by dinnertime, the worst had passed, still, I was so weak to join the family for dinner at our new-to-us dining table (which has become our favorite spot for gathering and celebrating everyday life). When dinner was over, I stirred in bed, got up and requested Felix to buy ice cream and gathered the family again for dessert.

gratefulness

Every opportunity I get, I want to make the moments special and meaningful. While we licked three flavors of ice cream in sugar cones, I told the family we were going to take turns in sharing what we were thankful to the Lord for that day. We made three rounds, three things each of what we wanted to thank the Lord Jesus for, before I declared we were done. In all of my three things, I felt His powerful presence. He was so near I could feel Him touching me I had goosebumps.

I have long learned that gratefulness does that: it draws us so very near to God and draws Him near to us. To thank the Lord from the bottom of our heart is to honor Him. And when he is honored in our lives, when He is exalted, He draws near, makes His presence felt, and He lingers. We feel we are so very loved and cherished.

There are times that I experience surges of love and gratitude towards Him that I want to squeeze Him really tight in a hug, like a child hugging her daddy in pure delight. One good thing that sickness and suffering has brought to my life is that the starting point of my gratitude has gone very low. Meaning, the trigger for happiness and gratitude is shallow. I don’t take things for granted. I can easily see the difference between suffering and relief (deliverance). And in that relief, in the healing moments, in the respites, my heart swells in gratitude. I am easily gladdened even by the smallest things that I am able to do. I take joy in them. Most people go places, celebrate with friends, pursue hobbies, do meaningful activities, etc. I can’t do most of those, I can’t go out, but with the little things that I can do – I am ever so grateful to the Lord.

The starting point of my gratefulness is low and the heights it reaches are extraordinarily high. Even that I consider a wonderful blessing. Only by His grace.

I have learned to fight discouragements, disappointments, and even hopelessness, by choosing to hold gratitude near my heart and be active and intentional in my thanksgiving.

When we are truly grateful to the Lord, without resentments and grudges and unending complaints – life certainly becomes brighter and lighter. Joy easily finds its way to our hearts and we are lifted up.

But even as I say these things, the harshness of life could still squeeze itself into one’s peace. It still wants its presence known and felt. Indeed, sometimes life could be like an arid, hostile wilderness. Sometimes the journey could feel so arduous, long, and almost unbearable. Especially in sickness and suffering with sorrow. It cannot be that sorrow is absent.

I remember the months when suffering made me turn to Job to find solace and strength. When in intense, constant suffering, God seemed to be nowhere, like He was covered in a thick fog. It felt like you were groping in the dark, confused, afraid, unsure. Job’s laments resonated with me:

Behold, I go forward, but he is not there;
and backward, but I cannot perceive him:
on the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him:
he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him: (Job 23:8-9)

Life isn’t fair sometimes and it feels like it’s all an uphill climb. These lyrics of Sandi Patty’s song, sounding like it was taken from Job’s words themselves, exactly express that. This song captured my soul for a time and I clung to it.

I feel You to the left and right

So close and yet just out of sight

I search where promises are kept.

I know You’re real

And somehow still

You’re watching over me

And You will always be until heaven

Brings me home to You

I’ll remember You will always be here

In my heart.

I ache inside but journey on

What is this desperate dream I chase

The distance cruel but yearning grows…

Yes, the journey seems like it sometimes – cruel and winding. But we’ve been placed here. For a reason. Job added,

But he knoweth the way that I take:
when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. (Job 23:10)

And ended with —

Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him. (Job 13:15)

I had echoed Job’s words and by doing so, I had been strengthened and my faith fortified.

We are here, we are walking this journey. It is hard most of the time, but the Lord Jesus Christ promised to be with us always, even to the end. And He gives us glimpses of His glory when we have learned how to look.

For days Tim was busy preparing for a project (he always has these DIYs). I heard snippets of the things he was looking for and collecting while he breezed in and out of my room. I wasn’t really paying attention (because that’s what adults usually do, I guess). But on the day that he had set up his project, a bird-trapping contraption, I accidentally opened the CCTV monitor. A voice whispered to me to look and consider.

So, I watched Tim as he checked out if birds had been eating his bait and I actually smiled. The rope went all the way from our garage to beyond the garden. “So I could not be seen while I watch them,” he said. I gathered up all the blessings this scene brought:

I have a healthy, active son.

He plays exuberantly as all other children of his age do.

He believes in wonders.

He is inventive.

He is a joy to me.

That day, I sensed the Lord Jesus’ delight and once again, I was awash with gratitude and joy.

We need not travel beyond the seas to see the wonders of God. He brings beauty and wonder right where we are. We only have to lower down the standard of what brings us joy and triggers our gratitude.

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The In-between Place

I didn’t realize it until recently that that is exactly where I am, have been this past almost 14 years. The in-between place, the place where one is suspended between the past and the longed-for place somewhere in the future. The in-between place can be a hard place to be. It’s not really where you want to find yourself in, and yet, you are somehow powerless to leave, not until the time is ripe and good and it’s what God has planned. The in-between place is a place of waiting. Waiting for a breakthrough – in career, in finding the right life partner, in conceiving a child, in healing. It could be healing from a painful or traumatic past or healing from an illness.

This blog theme painting was rashly and haphazardly done... but I hope you get the message :) .

This blog theme painting was rushly and haphazardly done, but … you get the message :) .

The in-between place is the valley of life. It is low, often dark and lonely. It’s a place of longing. For most, a deep longing. And yet, the in-between place is a place of healing itself, a conveyance from the place of brokenness toward that bright hope where things will have shifted into one’s favor and everything will have been made whole. The mind has forgotten and the wounds in the heart and soul have healed. But that is only one particular case.

However much we want to reach that breakthrough, it doesn’t entirely depend on ourselves. But it mostly depends on Providence. In the meantime (yes, meantime is the in-between place), we can make ourselves flourish while we wait. The in-between place is not necessarily barren but more of preparatory. Of learning and growing. The in-between place is either a journey or a resting place or both. You journey in the dark, uncertain valley toward your dream and hoped-for destination and you also rest awhile. Either way, you learn the hardest and most important lessons. The in-between place is a classroom and the hardships and challenges if offers are the teachers.

Faith

Hope

Trust

Patience

Courage

Perseverance

Steadfastness

Faith and everything that comes with it are what will make us thrive in this place. And they are what will bring us to our breakthrough.

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2-4)

And while we gain hard-fought learning and wisdom in this place, it also offers the greatest opportunity to know God more intimately. Which, by the way, is the finest form of wisdom. We don’t come to know Him as the God who sits on His throne and barks orders to His angel armies while they scurry about. A God who keeps Himself aloof with the affairs of His people. No, but we will come to know a God who is very personal, who wants Himself to be known intimately, who wants to build a divinely passionate relationship with us. One which the gates of hell cannot prevail against. One which no one and nothing can pluck us out of. Or separate us from.

That was the kind of relationship God wanted to establish with His people, the Israelites of old. But for them, the in-between place, that place between the bondage of Egypt and the Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey, is just a wilderness, a harrowing journey they didn’t care much about. In fact, they complained and murmured continually. Some of us (even I on occasions) have been like the Israelites one time or another while waiting to arrive at our Promised Lands. And then, there are those who never arrive, just like many of the Israelites had not, their carcasses scattered in the desert. Just because they did not have faith.

And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. (Debut. 8:2-3)

Allowed you to hunger. I very well know that the Prophet Moses wasn’t only talking about hunger for food, but also for that longed-for something at the end of our in-between place. I believe even the ancient Israelites weren’t thinking only about food, but they were also hankering for a place they could call home, where they could at last settle down and take root.

But now we understand that God allows us this hunger. For only through knowing it that we turn to Him, realizing sooner or later that only Him could truly satisfy.

So, we surrender to this hunger and to the will of the Sustainer. And just like how He had provided for His people in the past, He will provide everything we need. For He has a plan for us. And His plan is perfect. He will bring us to our Promised Land.

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Faith Unfailing

On the eve of writing this blogpost, another one of those super unwanted, agonizingly hard suffering attacks gripped me. Actually, the second one on that day. These attacks, at their ugliest peak, would drive me reeling in a swirl of emotions: fear, angst, uncertainty, weariness, and even anger. Not to mention the sheer physical hardship my body is subjected to in the first place. It would try to snuff out my peace, joy, faith, and hope. Being at the heart of that hard place is like dangling over a deep canyon. It’s cruel; it’s punishing. It is superlatively rejected.

COUNTRY LANE on 9" x 12" wc paper.

COUNTRY LANE on 9″ x 12″ wc paper by yours truly.

This is the kind of test my faith puts up against. Every day. Every week. Every month. Every year. These past more than 13 years.

I need a faith that never fails. Only by the grace of God.

That is why, at the heart of every suffering, I have prepared a Word capsule and I do my best to recite it even just once during those moments when I feel like going through a needle’s eye. It is this:

I will live. I will not die. The Lord will satisfy me with long life. According to my faith, it will be done unto me. I will not fear but only believe.

The key words are: according to my faith. 

I know that there is a lot of suffering in the world: persecution, harassment, abuse, hunger, sickness. I am sure that mine is not unique or that, among the suffering, I got the worst. I do not believe so. That is why, the common enemy of faith is this question: What makes one think that one could be healed or delivered when so many in the world, including Christians, are suffering and dying without receiving healing or being delivered from their plight?

What makes me think that among the millions who are suffering – men, women, and children – I would receive healing from the Lord Jesus Christ and be delivered from all my suffering, and be sent to testify and proclaim the gospel? What, indeed?

It is this: According to my faith, it will be done unto me.  

It is the echo of the Lord’s own words.

And when He had come into the house, the blind men came to Him. And Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?”

They said to Him, “Yes, Lord.”

Then He touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith let it be to you.” (Mat. 9:28-29, emphasis added)

 I believe that He is able to do it.

According to my faith, it will be to me.

I am not helpless. I have a choice. I can choose one thing and the Lord will honor it. 

I choose to believe and trust. I choose faith.

 You see, hope, for me, is looking forward toward a certain destination in the future, that there is a bright tomorrow that awaits even if now there is only dimness and hardship. Hope, certainly, is the anchor of my soul, sure and steadfast (Heb. 6:19). (I wrote about hope in early January). When, at some point, all else fails, hope clings on.

But faith is the fuel that drives every single day to move toward that destination.

Oftentimes for me, hope seems so far away, somewhere in the far horizon shrouded in a thick mist so that I can barely see it’s there.

But faith is ever-present. It is believing here, now, where we’re at.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Heb. 11:1)

Faith is an action word. It takes action. It believes, trusts, makes the first step, and the next. It is at the heart of faith that the Lord Jesus moves. It is faith that pries His hand out of His bosom and stretches it to heal. Faith is His native language, His music. He dances to it.

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Heb. 11:6)

If we listen to other voices in our mind, those self-defeating thoughts, faith cannot work mightily on our behalf. Faith, to work, must be founded on a purely single-minded disposition that believes God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. We need not believe that the fate of another will be our fate, too. But we can and will believe that the miracle of another can be ours, too. That is faith. That is the purpose of testimonies. To believe in testimonies is to believe in God and His Word.

The Lord Jesus did not perform many miracles in His own hometown because of their unbelief. Unbeliefs and doubts tie down His hands. 

Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He marveled because of their unbelief… (Mark 6:5-6)

He can do no mighty work when we doubt or not believe Him! That is why He was adamant when He told Jairus, “Be not afraid, only believe.” (See Mark 5:21-43).

But look how He reacted to the Canaanite woman who begged Him to heal her daughter, even after being told, “It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.” That hurts! But the distraught mother was unfazed. When she expressed her willingness to eat of the crumbs that fall from the master’s table, the Lord Jesus marvelled at her faith! He answered her:

“O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt!” (Mat. 15:28, exclamation point added for emphasis)

And her daughter was healed in that very same hour.

Many times, I had been that Canaanite mother in my desperation. It doesn’t matter if I was a dog licking the crumbs that fall from the table. I will do it to get well for the sake of my children.

Be it unto me even as I will or desire.

What do you desire the Lord Jesus to do for you? He is asking. He asked the blind man, the blind man did not hesitate to answer.

So Jesus answered and said to him, “What do you want Me to do for you?”

The blind man said to Him, “Rabboni, that I may receive my sight.” (Mark 10:51)

My faith has received too many beatings than I can count. It bears the scars of years of unrelenting trials and tests, of battles fought and won, only by the great mercies of God. But I thank my Savior Jesus Christ that it is still standing, sure and steadfast, to this day. For it is founded upon the Rock.

Dear readers, I have a wonderful gift for you: I wrote about the amazing testimony of Brother Michael Garcia, a poor, blind man who was called by the Lord from the pit of darkness and despair. Please click here to read the entire testimony.

Do not fear. Only believe.

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Poor in Spirit

For days I put my heart under scrutiny, an in-depth heart examination as I tried to search for the reason of my sadness. For even though I determined to go back to the first and great commandment and try to forget the more than 13 years that I had not received my healing, and start afresh, I could’t feel the spark. I went through my days going through the motions, the very thing I’d said I wanted to avoid. I couldn’t get myself to fully rejoice in the Lord, although I continued to do the things of God diligently as before – praying, Bible reading and journaling, praising (if I could), writing on my prayer journal, and painting flowers with a verse written in metallic gold paint – all to bring honor to Him. Still, my spirit groped.

YELLOW BLOOMS on my Monologue journal. I love painting on my journal and using metallic gold paint for Bible verse.

YELLOW BLOOMS on my Monologue journal. I love painting on my journal and using metallic gold paint for Bible verse.

I asked myself: What am I harboring in my heart?

Is it a silent rebellion that has its roots in resentful feelings?

Is it a silent, insidious sulk that is hardly remediable except the Lord do something about it?

Is it a combination of weariness and sorrow that cannot be soothed?

Is it bitterness that is hard to scour and dislodge?

Or, a defiant cynicism that is the beginning of my undoing?

I knew that it couldn’t be only all those things without it having any redeemable qualities. I discerned that my soul was longing for something more, besides my healing, something that is beyond my heart’s known desires (some of these desires, when put under the Savior’s penetrating light, are really not necessary in kingdom work). I guess I’m longing to see and live differently, far from the reach of the world’s standards.

I confess I’m weary of the world and the things it does to my heart and mind. It influences me in such a way that my mindset and affections are partly shaped by it. I’m getting weary envying and coveting and being plunged into the abyss of dismay and discouragement. Or numbness. That is, envying and coveting NOT other people’s goods, but other people’s lives – their health and strength, the places they go, things they are able to do and enjoy.

But please don’t get me wrong. I do not wish to see Las Vegas or Hollywood or other plush places most people wish to see. I wouldn’t long so deeply just for those, no. No, no, no. I just want to get well and get out and get away for a while. I want to be healed and be used by the Lord according to His purposes and plans. I want to live and experience the thrill of that kind of life. So alive and meaningful!

But as I wait and be ill still and suffer, I remain vulnerable to these unprofitable emotions which I hate to mention again.

And so, I arrived at a conclusion: I have not gone cold and backsliding, I am just poor in spirit. For years I have been poor in spirit, even as I learned to live and walk in full faith, pray as a child of God should, read the Bible diligently, praise and worship, and write about God’s story. Because of my longtime sickness and suffering that always threatens to steal my life, my future and joy, I have always been at the complete mercy of God – poor, needy, dependent, hungry, thirsty, desperate. And even as I am weak enough as to let the world subject me into a whirl of emotions that doesn’t help or add to my stature, I am the more poor in spirit.

I am the more in need of help. God’s help. In need of wholeness, wholeness that only the Lord Jesus can give.

I saw my true poverty for even as my illnesses oppress me, so I have let the world oppress me also by desiring to have a piece and taste of it, even for that harmless part of it: travels and vacations, dates with the husband, playdates with the kids, and more. Those are not sinful desires, I know. They are just normal desires that a wife and mother cherishes. But I have let their absence in my life and my deep longing for them steal my joy and my zeal for my Lord nonetheless.

The good part is, I have come to know how poor I am and how I need my Savior even more so.

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)

Refined gold. Our true wealth is in the Lord Jesus Christ.

White garments. He will clothe us with wholeness.

Anointing. That we may see.

I want to be truly rich, whole, and seeing, so there is a need for a change of heart and mind.

Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord… (part of 2 Cor. 8:17). And so I have made some practical changes that I knew would greatly help. One of those is to not live in and through Facebook. Most of my heartaches have come from that bittersweet place. Sadly, there are things I see there that make the heart heavy, doubt, and even grow cold and can make one stumble in his/her faith walk. But I need it also to share my blogposts or my art to those who want to have a piece of it. So, I only go there now when it’s really necessary.

The good things, really good things, are the ones you rarely see on your FB newsfeed: praying and fasting believers, workers visiting the sick and bringing the Gospel of salvation to places others would not dare to go. Of the saints of God weeping in worship, in poverty, in hardship. People of God who are poor in spirit: dependent on and hungry for God everyday of their lives.

No, you won’t see them on FB, but it would be a great blessing to be serving alongside them.

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Mat. 5:3)

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That Our Joy May Be Full

When was the last time that your joy was full? I mean, in every sense of the word “full”? No part fear, no part sorrow. No lack, no traces of longing or dissatisfaction somewhere deep inside. You are content and your joy is pure and unsullied. Maybe for you, it was last Christmas or yesterday or this morning. For me, I can’t remember the last time. It was too long ago, a time when good health was mine to enjoy. For even when my son was born, a day I would have celebrated with trumpets blowing, sorrow filled my heart. I was blessed with a beautiful, healthy baby boy, but I was too sick and weak to relish the moment. Instead of my heart being filled with joy, it was filled with fear. It has been that way since my health was stolen and in its place is sickness and suffering: joy mixed with sorrow. If that were even possible.

This was just a super quick doodle on my mixed media journal. But if you look closer, notice the metallic gold, copper, and ruby on the petals’ and leaves’ edges. For aren’t answered prayers and fulfilled dreams like gilded things?

Since around Christmas last year, I had been feeling depleted and running on low (if not empty). I couldn’t seem to put my heart and mind into a place where I could move in a steady rhythm once again and with some measure of contentment and joy. So, I just let myself float and wait for fresh grace and inspiration to come. Although all that time, I continued steadfastly in prayer.

The night I started to write this, I felt some sense of peace and courage flowing in to continue to serve the Lord with all I am and to love Him just as much. In a subtle, almost imperceptible way, I felt a fresh and much deeper still commitment to do those things that are pleasing in God’s eyes creeping into my heart, spreading quietly but surely. I needed that fresh watering of my soul for I had been writing on my prayer journal, asking the Lord to not let me grow cynical.

I remembered the Lord Jesus’ words —

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Mat. 11:28)

“…he who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35)

His love and words woo us back to Him, faithfully and fervently abiding in Him.

I was revived, rekindled, and wooed back into the happy place of loving and following the Lord Jesus Christ. It didn’t come like a rushing wind, or a mighty fire from heaven, or a flood that swept me. It came like a soft feather caressing my face, like a warm flannel gently wrapped around me by unseen hands. I had to strain my ears to listen, to make sure it was there alright.

When I woke up the next morning, my soul whispered, “I love You, my Father, my dearest Lord Jesus Christ”, even before I opened my eyes.

I know, it is well with my soul.

Sometimes when I desire so much to get well and be able to go out, doing the things I’ve been so wanting to do, like traveling and testifying of the grace and mercy of God, a voice whispers in my mind. It tempts me to feel guilty asking for those things that will make me full of joy. Most of the time, it succeeds. I listen, and then feel guilty. But when I reached John 16, I was freed through the Lord’s words. Surely, I have read it numerous times before, but this time, it took on a new color, the very thing that I needed.

“…ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:24)

That voice in my head has been lying, for the Lord Jesus tells me differently.

It’s okay to not feel joy-full when we’re deeply longing for something, like healing perhaps. We need not feel guilty if we feel sorrow not receiving the things we so desire. That doesn’t make us ungrateful. And yes, it’s okay to desire the things that will do us a world of good. Even the Lord knows that it’s only when we have received what we asked for that our joy may be full. He’s saying that, until we ask and receive it, its absence in our lives leaves much to be desired and our joy is not complete.

It’s okay to desire and ask and believe that whatever we’re asking for from His hand will make us full of joy.

A healing.

A child.

A friend.

A love.

A yes.

A relationship mended.

A marriage repaired.

A family restored.

A loved one’s salvation.

A place visited.

A dream fulfilled.

Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.(1 John 5:14-15)

Because, you know what? He’s all there. He is in that place where our joy becomes full. He is there waiting to give it to us, to rejoice with us in the receiving.

Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.

The Lord is inviting us, encouraging us, beckoning to us with His outstretched hands.

Ask.

Receive.

Be joy-full.

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Finding Life

A Facebook friend commented after I posted photos of In-Cosmetics Asia 2016 held in Bangkok, Thailand, which my husband attended, “You must miss it!” She was referring, of course, to the life I lived before in the world of cosmetic ingredients – glamorous and exciting. And I burst out what I had been hiding in my heart these many years, for out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks, “I super miss it. Sometimes I still feel a painful pinch in my heart when I see photos like this.” That was a portion of my reply.

"GRAPEVINE". My watercolor painting on 9" x 12" wc paper.

“GRAPEVINE”. My watercolor painting on 9″ x 12″ wc paper.

Later, I thought about the exchange and examined it. Was I really still longing for that old life? Do I still want to go back to it? The answer I got was “No”. I feel a longing when I see photos of the world I used to inhabit, not because I am desiring to go back to it, but because I know the happiness and thrill it brought.

How can one go back to a life in the distant past (13 years) when one is a new person?

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

It’s like putting a new wine to old wineskins which the Lord Jesus Himself spoke of.

Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved. (Mat. 9:17)

I have always wrestled with this verse. What is the Lord talking about? But now I get a glimpse of it: A new wine like myself cannot thrive in the old life I used to live, the old wineskin, for after 13 years of walking closely with the Lord, I no longer know how to walk otherwise. Not that that world would be ruined because of the new me, but because I cannot be unequally yoked with it after the Lord has called me for His purposes. I can go, when all this sickness is over, not to work, but to tell of the wondrous salvation from the Lord. To win souls.

But why the longing? Somewhere in the deep recesses of my heart is this wish: I wish that I had known the Lord Jesus while I was at the peak of my career, that I had surrendered my life to Him even then. Maybe then, I wouldn’t have been taken out of it.

If I had known the Lord then and walked in His ways and didn’t make the bad decisions that I made, would I still be there today, working, healthy and strong?

But the saddest thing is – that wasn’t the case. That wasn’t my life. I was successful by the world’s standards, living my dreams, but l was dead in the eyes of God. Let the dead bury their dead.

How deplorable it is to think that there are many people in the world who put up multimillion businesses and have stellar careers, but do not know how to really live.

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. (John 1:4)

No matter how much we deny it – we do not know how to live apart from Christ.

I knew how to live by the world’s standards – competition,  excellence, devising, etc. But with the way I led my personal life – important relationships like marriage and family, and most of all, a right relationship with the Savior – I was the biggest fool. In business, I made the wisest decisions. But in private life, I acted like I had no brains at all.

I didn’t live in virtue; I lived in selfishness. I was just one of millions who walk this earth in selfishness. The world needs a Savior, and indeed, He has come.

That’s why now, I have life. I live. Because of Him. Now, I can honestly echo the apostle Paul’s words:

Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him… (Phil. 3:8-9, emphasis added)

This is what it means when the Lord said to lose our lives. Yes, to lose that life that is not really life but death, and to trade it with the life we find in Him. That is the true life. Everlasting life.

He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it. (Mat. 10:39)

This is pure wisdom: To be willing to lose the life that we adore so much and to find ourselves in Him.

It will be hard for some. They will look back with longing of the life they left behind every now and then. Like me. But not to take the first step to go back to it, but to be able to appreciate how much the Lord Jesus had to give to give us life.

A life that will not cease long after this world has.

This is the life Jesus gives. But many of us are not willing to take it. We want to remain as blinds and fools, not knowing what matters most. We only see the pleasures and thrills the world offers; we cannot see the other side, the side where the King of kings reside. Life and glory forevermore.

But even as we live in the Lord, sometimes we still act foolish and make foolish decisions the same way as the world does. Where has wisdom gone?

For whoever finds me finds life,
And obtains favor from the Lord. (Prod. 8:35)

Sometimes we dwell in coldness and lovelessness. In anger and unkindness. In selfishness. We respond harshly to criticisms that are supposed to help, correct, and improve us. We devour each other even as we call on the name of the Lord and carry His name. Christians.

Yes, sometimes we do not know how to really live, even if the Lord has already shown us how to. He is the way, the truth, and the life. Sometimes we act as if we do not know Him.

He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? (Mic. 6:8)

Oh, man! (Put a crying emoji here). What does the Lord require of us?

Do justly.

Love mercy.

Walk humbly with God.

Do we trample each other and grind each other with our unmerciful words? But didn’t you know, oh man, that —

Pleasant words are like a honeycomb,
Sweetness to the soul and health to the bones. (Prod. 16:24)

Our words should bring life and healing!

The letter addressed to the church in Sardis should serve as a warning and reminder:

I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. (Rev. 3:1-2, emphasis added)

Life in the Lord must be fruitful, not barren. 

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To a Desert Place

On an early morning a few days before my birthday, I woke up feeling like my heart and body had remembered that there was a reason for my melancholy, like they were hurting all over, not physically, but emotionally. Does that happen to you, too? Even before your mind has processed what is wrong, your heart and body experience it already. There had been a reason for the heaviness of my heart, but on that Thursday morning, I was compelled to make a decision even before I opened my eyes. I accompanied my decision with a prayer of release against my pillow.

My watercolor painting of a deserted beach at sunset on 9" x 12" 140lb, cotton wc paper. (Reference photo from total-embodiment.tumblr.com

My watercolor painting of a deserted beach at sunset on 9″ x 12″ 140lb, cotton wc paper. (Reference photo from total-embodiment.tumblr.com

Sometimes it happens that the thing that is so close to our heart must be released, when we perceive in our spirit that it may not be God’s will. Or He’s silent about it. Or He’s not into it with us. Yes, even those things which we have carefully planned and crafted and dedicated to His name that we thought He would approve and support. I had been praying fervently for God to bless something I had dedicated to Him, something that I knew would make me happy and bring my life fulfilment. And Him glory and service. But a few months into the project, He was silent and He wasn’t lifting a finger to prosper it.

When I finally released it and told Him I was going to give it up and wait for His word, I felt like a weight had been lifted off my heart.

Sometimes we craft ways to usher in happiness to our lives, but when we can’t get God on board, we may feel that He’s withholding it from us. Thankfully, that wasn’t what I felt in this case. I was relieved to give up something that had kept Him silent and was humble to wait what He had to say about it. Or what He had in store for me. Maybe He had better, greater, more wonderful things in mind for me.

That is faith and great expectations in Him :) .

Later that day, though I was sad because my plan didn’t pan out, I was closely leaning in and listening to that still, small voice. And it came without delay. At first, it was an invitation, a whisper to my soul to come with Him into a desert place and rest awhile. 

I was more than happy to oblige. I needed it. I needed to stop the analyzing, designing, planning for my happiness. The Lord Jesus just wanted me to rest awhile with Him. He wanted me to get away from all my strivings, the noise of my heart and mind and the world around me. Even if that world is so small.

Sometimes we believe that our beautiful dreams and best-laid plans are the best for us, especially when we offer them to God as our way of honoring and serving Him. But in this case, the Lord made me understand that I need not go to such length, or exchange Him for my dreams. He is enough.

To obey is better than sacrifice [and all our other attempts at offering], and to hearken than plunging into our projects that look pretty and bring us snippets of happiness.

Most of the time we don’t understand. But faith is to follow our Good Shepherd wherever he leads and to believe that the adventure He has planned for us is more wonderful, more exhilarating, beyond anything we ever dreamed or imagined or crafted. His plan is always perfect, unlike ours which often has loopholes.

So when He bids us into the desert place, we go. It is where He shows His wonders: leading us with the cloud of His constant presence by day and a burning light by night; parting the seemingly impossible obstacles so we could walk through them; raining on us fine showers of blessings that we often take for granted, which we can only appreciate if we go out and gather them and wonder. It is where He opens our eyes – when it seems to us there is only defeat – to see that we have limitless resource in Him. And we shall never want.

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel,
“In returning and rest you shall be saved;
    in quietness and in trust shall be your strength…” (Is. 30:15) 

The desert place, not necessarily an endless expanse of golden sands, is a quiet place where we can find our God and Father. A deserted place where there is no wifi, no access to social media, away from the noise and distractions of the world, its envy, covetousness, comparisons, competitions. But only Him, bidding us to find that stairs that is unrolled from heaven to earth.

He bids us to come. Closer to Him. And rest at His feet as Mary of Bethany has done. To know that one needful thing and choose that good part, which shall not be taken away from us (see Luke 10:42). 

The Lord wants to unentangle us from the cares of the world, even if those cares are not of the magnitude of worldly pursuits. Even if those cares are pleasant dreams and godly goals. Still, He wants that He is first and foremost in our lives. That He is the One who will give those dreams and plans and projects. That He will be the One to plan our happiness. Didn’t He admonish Martha of all her fussing?

And Jesus answered and said unto her, “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful… ” (Luke 10:41-42)

One thing is needful. Yet we often miss it. One thing is needful, yet we often ignore it. One thing is needful, yet we often choose what we want. One thing is needful, yet we often trade that with fleeting happiness. One thing is needful, yet we are sometimes blind, deaf, and numb to it.

One thing is needful and it is where our Savior God bids us to.

Where is your desert place? Where is your wilderness where you can hear God’s still, small voice more clearly?

I can’t go out of our house. I can only go as far as our patio which connects to our garden. But it suffices. As I write this, I sit here in our patio surrounded with quiet, with only the twittering birds somewhere among the thick foliage of the trees. And I like that. Earlier, a strong breeze swept off the fallen leaves from the trellis roof above me. They fell on the grass below like a shower of confetti. I looked up from my laptop to witness and feel the breeze swirl all around me. For a moment I thought the Lord was making His presence felt in a subtle yet un-ignorable display.

Here in our patio where trees on every side afford me seclusion – narra tree on the north, mango tree on the south, and santol tree on the west – I find my desert place where I can rest awhile with my Lord Jesus.

It was around my birthday (October 2) when I received the replacement of the thing that I had to give up. And it was glorious in my eyes! (More on that next time :) ).

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Journey with Jesus,