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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A Place Called Love

I am only now seriously learning how to settle in the circle of God’s perfect love, that new, almost uncharted territory (for me) where fears and doubts find no place. Imagine a baby in its crib, doted upon by its parents, cocooned and secure in their love. It is not doing anything to add to that love, yet, it doesn’t know how to feel afraid. Yes, that. That is the place I’m talking about.

Twelve years ago, I came to the Savior literally trembling in fear, both from my scary, undiagnosed illness and from the powerful sting of sin, as dark as adultery. I had instantly felt the loving arms of my Lord and Savior encircling me in a warm embrace, His peace dislodging much of the fear and trembling. Yet, through the years, they never completely left.

With the continued suffering of an unhealed body, it was hard to put firmly in place all the powerful words I was learning from God’s Word. It was as if the illness which refused to budge —- the symptoms that came and went, ebbing then swelling up again —- was a strong proof of my past sins, and the thought that maybe…maybe I had not repented enough? But that’s just one of the devil’s many lies. For a whole season after I received salvation, I was always on my knees confessing, weeping in repentance, and begging for complete forgiveness and deliverance. This “proof” or lie, the devil took advantage of to great extent, every now and then whispering condemnations and accusations, reminding me of what I had done, always trying to push me into that place of fear, fighting tooth and nail to put me back in bondage. Although the voice of the Holy Spirit almost always gained the upper hand in these wrestlings — fears, confusion, and doubts were never dissolved completely as long as unhealing occurred.

There is no true freedom with fear’s constant presence. On the contrary, there is seemingly a relentless battering of the spirit which eventually affects the body and aggravates the suffering — tension and pain in the muscles, restless stomach and heart, headaches, etc. Apostle John put it so accurately: Fear involves torment.

For a very long time I couldn’t quite grasp it. I had studied the Word and knew I had found the key – perfect love casts out fear – but it remained just beyond my reach, like little orbs of light dancing, ever shifting in front of me, but I was never able to capture and keep.

I read His promises and believed and trusted with all my heart, then waited in expectation. But when healing remained out of reach…the story became complicated.

At this time of my life that the Lord has opened a door to new learning, fresh freedom, and deeper spiritual maturity, I am scrambling to pick up everything I need before the door is shut again. He takes my hand in His and is gently but firmly leading me to a place I hadn’t believed I could freely enter and thrive in. I am just realizing now that our fears, when we, consciously or unconsciously, let them reign in our lives, could hinder us from entering that place the Savior beckons us to: A place called love where fear can’t reign or exist advantageously.

Fear dilutes the power of God’s Word in our lives if we let it. Unfortunately, more often than not, we do. But now, I am totally awake to what the Lord is showing me: I had let fear and doubts choke the Word, thus, I had not known how to fully establish myself in His love. I had let the devil’s lies, taking advantage of my prolonged illness and suffering, sow bitterness in me and develop skepticism to God’s promises. This had kept me in that place of want, of longing, of sadness and sighing.

The Lord calls us in love, peace, and joy. What I am doing now is reading and re-studying the Word with a clean slate, not marred by unbeliefs and doubts, skepticism, cynicism even, bitterness, resentment, or sorrow. I am re-establishing His promises in my life like it’s the first time — no prejudices or judgments based on past experiences — and resolutely erasing the impression that they had failed.

The key now is to believe the Word as it is, period. Whatever it says, receive it without doubts, period. Then let it do its work.

A Child of God

 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name. (John 1:12)

I have received him wholeheartedly, unreservedly in my life, thus, I am now a true child of God and it’s about time that I live up to that position – He has given me the right! There are so many things to learn being a child of God, but we can start in revelling in the Father’s love as beloved sons and daughters.

The Father’s Love

Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! (1 John 3:1)

I will behold God’s love for me and be in awe of it. I will not equate my illness and suffering, my unhealing yet (or any unanswered prayer) with God’s love. God’s love is a truth that is established forever. I believe healing starts from this place.

Perfected in Love

But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. (1 John 2:5)

I will keep His Word, believe in it even when circumstances dictate that I will doubt it. I will abide in His Word, not questioning it, more so when waves of hardships come to test. I believe it is through tenacious, steadfast, unwavering faith, unmarred by doubts, that His love is perfected in us, that His love could work powerfully in our lives.

No Place for the Devil

For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. (1 John 3:20)

Don’t let the devil condemn, accuse or oppress us! God and His love for us are far greater and more powerful than any lie the devil could concoct. And if we stumble that the devil has an occasion to condemn us, We have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous ( 1 John 2:1).

In our deepest need, we so long to feel God’s love wrapped around us like a warm blanket, to experience it first-hand and not just know or read about it. We desperately want His love manifested in our lives through our healing and emancipation from suffering. That will come. Our wholeness — healing of mind, heart, and body — is a part of His covenant with His children. In the meantime, we must trust His every word, every promise.

Let us end today’s message with the beautiful words of Ephesians 3:17-19. I love how the New Living Translation puts it:

Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

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Precious Peace

The things people really long for cannot be bought by any amount of wealth. That’s a cliché but its truth has never diminished through the ages. It’s interesting to note that these things – love, peace, joy, and such like – can only be had with the Holy Spirit dwelling in one’s heart. No wonder, one can travel far and wide, do all the things that bring pleasure, possess material things to one’s heart’s content, but one may grow old without ever finding love, peace, joy, and their kin. But once one receives the Holy Spirit, all these and more come with it in a beribboned package.

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)

Peace. I believe this is the most difficult to find. I can never take for granted its presence in my life. It’s a gift from God that I’m grateful for everyday. For I know how to be devoid of it. There were different seasons in my life where I had known a measure of peace or absence of it.

My years in college might be the most peaceful ones of my adult life, that is, before I received my salvation later on in life. Those 5 years in Baguio City where I lived in the ladies dorm inside Saint Louis University campus were rather hard in terms of finances. But that and the rigorous duties assigned to us in the dorm didn’t even try to wane my enthusiasm to finish my course – B.S. ChE. Maybe the cool climate, the sight and scent of evergreens surrounding the campus, and the fire in me to finish college with flying colors all contributed to the atmosphere of peace in my heart, mind, and soul.

When I put up my own company at 30, the disquiet began. I entered into a world of high-profile business with all the competition involved. Even so young, I wanted my company to be a leader in the industry. So I invested all my strength, wisdom, talent, and time into it. But not without cost. Then came marriage, family, and later on, its painful undoing.

I had known how to bask in career and business success with all the pleasures and luxuries that came with it. I know that it can be experienced even without inner peace in one’s heart and mind. Success on the outside, turmoil on the inside. Why not? I had lived that kind of life, and learned, rather painfully, that one’s self wouldn’t last long in it.

I remember when I was at the peak of my career AND my personal problems, I confided to a friend who also happened to be working for a competitor. She told me that her employer was going through the same concerns and problems like mine. Do heart-wrenching problems come with worldly success? I think so, what with all the options money can avail. I mean, these options can drive one to make decisions that can be detrimental to him or her and the people involved in his or her life. One example is the option to end one’s marriage by annulment (or divorce in other countries) and starting over with another relationship. Consider the words of Apostle Paul:

But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (1 Tim. 6:9-10)

But one can be successful and godly at the same time. And filled with peace. For they trust in the living God and not in their riches. They are not proud in their wealth but rather humble in the sight of God and man. And they gladly give. Such are described in 1 Tim. 6:17-19:

Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. 18 Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, 19 storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.

Peace, precious peace. Elusive to many people but God gives it to whosoever receives His gift of salvation. There will be trials and tribulations along the narrow path, for this we can be sure. But this is the assurance:

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:7)

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God’s Presence Through the Word

Meditating on Psalm 119:81-112.

My soul faints for Your salvation,
But I hope in Your word.
82 My eyes fail from searching Your word,
Saying, “When will You comfort me?”

Unless Your law had been my delight,
I would then have perished in my affliction. (Ps. 119:81,82,92)

Psalm 119 essentially talks about God’s laws, precepts, statutes, and testimonies. In other words, and as we apply the psalm in the present, it talks about the Word of God, the words that proceeded out of His mouth which were faithfully recorded in both old and new testaments and became the Holy Bible. The psalmist, in his extreme need, hopes in God’s Word, in His promises, and not on anything else. He diligently searches God’s Word, looking for the fulfilment of the promise which is in it. By holding on to and delighting in God’s promises, he is delivered and doesn’t perish in his affliction. What great light, penetrating from long ago, does this bring us!

The psalms teach us that in everything, in all our trials and tribulations, may they be diseases of our bodies, problems that break our hearts, or great dangers we face – we can put our hope and trust in God’s Word, in His promises. This is the one thing that makes us wiser than the wisdom of the world.

Oh, how I love Your law [Word]!
It is my meditation all the day.
98 You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies;
For they are ever with me.
99 I have more understanding than all my teachers,
For Your testimonies are my meditation. (vv. 97-99, annotation mine)

The Word of God teaches, rebukes, corrects, and trains us in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16). It heals our diseases. He sent His word and healed them… (Ps. 107:20). But it is also a channel through which we can feel God’s powerful presence. We praise and worship God to enter into His presence and feel Him moving mightily in us. But we cannot always sing with strength, especially those of us who are sick and weak.

There are seasons in my illness that my abdomen becomes too weak to vocalize. For weeks, even months, I cannot sing praises in my private worship time, but I compensate that in immersing more in the Word, morning and evening. I honor and worship the Lord as I soak up His Word, verse upon verse, passage upon passage, chapter upon chapter. There are times that He grips me so suddenly in His presence as I plough through His Word, that my spirit is caught up in His embrace. And I would stop in the middle of reading, raise my hands and worship, and bask in His glorious presence, tears cascading.

One night many months ago, when my son Tim was suffering from an asthma-like cough and my husband was away praying and fasting, I felt, heard in my spirit, and saw in my mind, the Lord talking to me. In the early evening, I read Him between the pages, during the ministry of prophet Elisha. I was so in it – the places, His words, His power, His presence. As if I was there myself. When later that night, Tim sat up and told me that he couldn’t breathe, I raised my hand towards heaven and cried out to God. As I prayed and begged Him to help Tim, I saw Him in my mind (my eyes were tightly closed) and He spoke to me.

“You spent time with Me tonight. You delighted in My words and works. You know Me, who I Am, what I can do. I will not fail you. I am with you. See, I am here. Just so very near you.” (Choking back tears). I was weeping because of the Lord’s holy presence and His words. And when I laid my hands on my son to cast out his sickness, I saw in my mind that it was God’s prophet Elisha who was laying his hands on my son. Before the night was over, Tim began to recover. Hallelujah!

Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path. (v. 105)

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His Word is Light and Life

Meditating on Psalm 119: 17-32

Deal bountifully with Your servant,
That I may live and keep Your word.
18 Open my eyes, that I may see
Wondrous things from Your law. (Ps. 119:17-18)

I can almost feel the psalmist’s agonized prayer to God through the passages of Psalm 119. Definitely, these are not ordinary utterances but ones that proceed from an afflicted, sorrowing soul. I remember the early days of my illness and suffering. One moment I was in the best of health, working, traveling, and doing the things I loved, the next moment, I was bound in bed, very sick and weak and feeling like I was drowning fast from the fears that accompanied my illness. During those dark hours, I strained to find comfort, strength, understanding, and deliverance from God’s Word.

I was desperately scrambling for light to understand what was happening in my life and I believed I could get that from God’s Word. In-between difficult eating and bouts of violent vomiting and struggling for breath, I begged the Lord to speak to me through His Word. How I desperately needed to know! And He didn’t fail me. He answered my very crucial questions through His Word, and I was greatly comforted and strengthened.

His Word was my light in the darkest hours.

My soul clings to the dust;
Revive me according to Your word.

My soul melts from heaviness;
Strengthen me according to Your word. (vv. 25, 28)

As I spent endless days in bed, I was nourished by daily servings of His Word. I devoured chapters upon chapters. Did I believe this would do me good? Absolutely. I believed the Word could bring me healing. I believed it could resurrect me and bring me new life, both physically and spiritually. Revive me according to Your word; strengthen me according to Your word, the psalmist begged.

As I stalked the Lord Jesus in the narrow streets of Jerusalem or along the seashore or on the mountain where He resorted, I desperately wanted to be sucked into the pages of the Gospels and be with Him where there’s no more pain, suffering, and fear. As I followed Him relentlessly with the multitudes and straining to touch the hem of His garment, I knew without a doubt that I would be healed. I did all this through walking and living in His Word.

…The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. (John 6:63)

The words of the Lord are life. They give life and bring healing and restoration. He and His Word are one. The Word [is] God (John 1:1).

I love God’s Word. I have not gotten tired of opening it and walking through it, meandering through the beautiful, life-giving passages, and pondering on and wrestling with the hard teachings. That I may swallow them and be digested in my inmost parts that I may continue to live. To live, physically and spiritually.

It is my constant prayer to remain fervent in His Word.

I might be linking up with these lovely blogs.

Journey with Jesus,