When Silence Reigns

One night last week, after seeing that my very serious hair problem wasn’t budging an inch, I felt my spirit shut down. An overwhelming need to be silent engulfed me. I lost all desire to pray. What’s the use when I’m not heard? That was, more or less, the beat of my heart and the whisper of my soul.

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This was a 30-minute or so dabble but I like how it came out.

For the past two months or so, I have been losing so much hair. Actually, I’ve been having constant hair fall even before I fell sick more than 14 years ago, but it has never been a problem then. I actually welcomed the shedding whenever I applied conditioner because my hair was very thick, thick shaft and lots and lots of it. But recently, the shedding has become alarming. Whenever I brush my hair ever so gently, an unusual amount of hair, like a nest, is entangled in the brush and more would fall, covering the floor with thick dark mass. My hair falls everyday even if I don’t touch it. It’s very thin now and it’s depressing me. It scares me even. If it doesn’t stop, what will happen then?

I’m puzzled why this would happen when I’m not taking any kind of medicine and I’m eating well. But I rallied all I have – mind, heart, spirit – and declared a faith that could move mountains. I did all my best – pray, lay hands, affirmations, and more begging and praying. Felix offered me his hair vitamins for advanced hair growth, but I declined. Maybe it would be a great help, his hair has become thicker ever since he started taking those supplements. But my body can’t just ingest anything foreign to it, like drugs and vitamins.

Another reason for my momentary spiritual shutdown is the nagging sadness that I can’t travel. It cannot be that our family will always stay put. I know that there will come a time when the kids will want to leave the nest and venture into the world. Or even next summer, they may want to visit other countries like many of their friends and acquaintances do. Already they are planning for adventures in Hong Kong or Singapore or Japan or all of those countries and more.

I want them to experience those, but how would that leave me? Alone in our home with only the housekeeper. Except for 2006, it’s always been like that for me. Whole summers they went away and I was left alone.

How will that leave me? Will it shrivel my spirit or expand it? More on the former, I believe. I have wanted to ask you, dear readers, what you think about this kind of dilemma.

All these burdens converged that night last week and I shutdown. I felt like a leaf, a gossamer leaf that with the slightest whiff of wind, it would easily shred into tiny pieces. My heart was so weighted down. It was an overwhelming sadness to which silence bowed down. A sadness that took up color and texture: dim and gritty.

In that silent space, I suddenly felt weary and didn’t have any desire to rally whatever I have left inside of me. I didn’t want to rise up and declare a faith that can move mountains. I couldn’t feel it.

I hemmed myself in with my silence and outside of it, the usual pesky demons lured me: self-pity, rebellion in the heart, coldheartedness, bitterness, rage, unbelief. But I ignored them all. It wasn’t about any one of them. It was about being silent and observing what the Lord Jesus Christ would do. Would He come? 

I wanted Him so much to come, take my hand and lead me beside the still waters and whisper words of love.

I wanted Him but I refused to pray. I had done a lot of that; it was time to keep silent.

But I still read my Bible, a chapter in Luke. I didn’t want to pray but I love His Word.

I closed my Bible and asked, What now? Where will all this sadness lead me? 

I opened my prayer journal, no, not to write a prayer, but to list down the good things in my life. I didn’t want to be lost in my sadness. 

I wrote (with editing):

I have a comfortable bed in a spacious room cooled by an air conditioner. I can listen to praise music anytime.

Whenever I feel strong, I paint. I have lots of professional watercoloring materials: paper, paints, brushes, books. There’s more than enough, and the colors and textures!

I can eat many times a day in small portions. I can enjoy a piece of cake, cookies, tea, and slices of fruit. I have pretty teacups and assortment of English teas in a box. A new favorite is jasmine tea.

I can read. I have many books in the shelves waiting to be read. They feed my mind and expand my vocabulary.

I blog. I share my life through words and encourage others in their faith walk.

I have my family around me. We love celebrating and being together.

Though I feel very low and really sad, I have peace in my heart.

In times of crisis, when we recall and list down God’s blessings in our life, we are blessed in a way that self-pity or hopelessness are held at bay. They will not engulf us or reign over us. A steady stream of peace will still flow in us. 

Later that night, I listened to praise on YouTube on my smart TV, but I chose the ones that I could relate to.

When there are no words to say
and no prayer that I can pray, hear my heart.
When I don’t have strength to try
and I’ve cried all I can cry, hear my heart.
Cause you know every fear and every doubt I cannot speak.
You know all the ways I need you and all the ways I’m weak, so I’ll be quiet
So you can hear my heart.¹

I try to be strong but if anyone can fall apart, I fall apart
I run back to you again and you heal my broken heart²

Didn’t I run to your rescue didn’t I hear you when you called
I walked right beside you just so you wouldn’t fall
Didn’t I leave all of Heaven just to die for your sin
I searched until I found you and I’d do it all again. ³

The anchor holds
Though the ship is battered
The anchor holds
Though the sails are torn.*

Before the night ended, I spoke to Felix’s ready ears and heart and tears fell. The days following, I would whisper, “Lord, be my Shepherd.”

It’s okay to fall silent at times, if this is the way we could find ourselves again in Jesus’ love.

¹”Hear my Heart” by Bill and Gloria Gaither
²Hold Me while” I Cry by Gerald Crabb
³”Didn’t I Walk on the Water” by Linda Gibson Johnson
*”The Anchor Still Holds” by Lawrence Chewning

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Christmas in My Heart

My thoughts and feelings days before Christmas are a rhythm of struggles, hard prayers and deep ponderings  on the meaning of all these things we do during this season, and also a flurry of birthday celebrations at home. There is this sadness that hovers over my soul that I can’t quite understand where it’s coming from. Maybe it’s a blend of all the unanswered prayers and unfulfilled dreams that I’m nursing in my heart. Whatever it is, I trudge through the days before Christmas meditatively. I listen to praise and I find that there’s a need to lock my eyes and mind on the lyrics for them to sink in and reach deep into that space where there’s a need for sanctification and revival.

Practice drawing from two years ago.

Practice painting from two years ago.

I cannot decide whether to be fully joyful because ’tis the season or to be part sad and part celebratory. The primary feeling is like trudging through thick mud and every step is heavy and hard. I know that while most people around the world are in the thick (and thrill!) of Christmas preparations, there are also those who do not know how to live through it without feeling unhappy, depressed, exhausted, and envious and coveting (realities of life!)

But this thing I affirmed to the Lord: I still have hope, faith, and a prayer. And I begged for help, help in every area that I need it. Help in thinking and feeling right, for starters.

I realized that there is great internal conflict when we believe we are ready to move on – from trials and miseries, sickness and suffering – and start afresh and live healed and free, but God is not. When we have had enough of the hardships and self-pity and living less than the life promised by the Lord, and yet, that fervently-prayed-for dream stays out of reach – it is a burden that is hard to bear.

It becomes a struggle between not relinquishing faith and hope and giving in to defeat. It is a hard and bitter struggle.

Have faith in God. This reminder from the Lord Jesus sometimes dangles over the skirmishes between fear and faith, weakness and strength. And though I am counting 14 years behind me that I have had unwavering faith and relentless prayers for my healing, I still ask it to this day and as fervently, if not more.

Maybe there is a need to not count the years or months that we have not been answered. Maybe it would be better if we stopped counting the years of unanswered prayers and instead, count the years that God saw us through. Maybe the Apostle Paul’s advice to forget those things which are behind [our old life] and reaching forward to those things which are ahead can also be applied to the things in the past where we had been tried and tested again and again.

Yes, and to believe that everyday is a new opportunity to renew our faith and to approach the throne of grace and mercy with confidence. That every day can be a day of new beginnings and fresh starts and for that long-awaited miracle.

That is what Christmas brings us: a new hope, a new believing. The tidings of great joy and peace and goodwill to all men that should not lose their promise and power and fulfilment. It is the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ after all (or the remembrance of it).

What we need this Christmas (and all the days of the year for that matter) is not more of our desires and the world. We need more of Christ – His presence. His powerful presence that can transform us. We don’t know it yet, but maybe in our transformation or re-transformation, we can find our healing.

Maybe we have focused so much more on ourselves and our needs (I know I have) than on our devotion to Him. Maybe our adoration of Him has been watered down by the trials we’ve had to go through. But everyday (and not only on Christmas) is an opportunity to deepen our devotion to Him, to make our service to Him real and rich.

A WONDERFULLY BLESSED, CHRIST-FILLED CHRISTMAS TO ALL!

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I Will Be Faithful

I imagine moving my #4 sable brush on the paper, imparting a blush of bright pink with dark, very vivid red peeking under the tightly-closed petals. The peony buds, perfect rounds of loveliness – they bring joy and inspiration to my heart in this season of painful hoping and waiting. I think about painting them, and of the already open blooms in the darkest of reds — maroon is what many people would call it, but in my palette, that would be Alizarin Crimson — and my oft-tested love and faith are somewhat soothed.

Screenshot 2017-12-12 15.22.06

I think of gliding my brush, anticipating the buds to take form, the red reminding me of my love for the Lord Jesus Christ that I had just renewed recently amid another hurt, another reason to slump on the ground, weak and defeated. But as I looked, and looked again, at the black mass carpeting the floor beside the bed that were my fallen hairs, I steeled my heart and declared – “I will be faithful to You! I will stick and continue with You. My strong faith in You must work on my favor” – as if my heart wasn’t near fainting and being discouraged beyond hope.

But I couldn’t allow my heart to be discouraged beyond hope.

Those traces of reds, they remind me of my wounded heart in my hand, but still wholly proffered to my Lord and Savior. I will give it to Him over and over, no matter how battered, no matter how much it’s hurting, no matter how much it’s been tried and tested.

Would the Savior that bled on the cross to make me whole break my heart? My spirit? Would He wound my hopeful and faithful heart with His silence as to my healing and deliverance from my sickness and suffering? Would He deeply hurt me by just looking on while the devil does its pleasure on me?

Would my Shepherd who promised many wonderful things in His Word allow me to be wounded like this?

Whatever is in His heart, I am not deserting Him. There’s no other place to go.

He asked Peter and the other disciples if they would also go as like the many who were offended by Him and deserted Him.

“Will ye also go away?”

Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)

To whom shall I go? To whom shall you go?

He is the way, the truth, and the life. Or have I forgotten this in the midst of my pain?

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John 14:6)

Painting the peony blooms and buds is the only thing I can do, amid the hurt and apprehension, to remember the Savior’s love, that love that was poured out on Calvary, rivulets of crimson that flowed from countless wounds and hands and feet where thick nails were driven through. I cannot for now rise up and proclaim a renewed battle against the rulers of the darkness of this age with all might and power that I don’t possess. I can only be still, and know that He is God. I can only let myself be carried in His big, capable hands until all these things have come to pass.

And I will be faithful throughout.

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A Beggar But Not Beggarly

On the early morning after we celebrated my son Tim’s 10th birthday the night before, I found myself begging before God as at other times. Only this time, my silent cries seemed to resound from my corner of this earth to the splendors of heaven. And although the past days I wanted to be still and quiet as I waited on Him, this time, I couldn’t be thwarted in my begging over and over.

This is an image I got from Google. There was no time to paint the theme because my Tim birthdayed).

This is an image I got from Google. There was no time to paint the theme because my Tim birthdayed).

If I will live and remain here (which is my primary prayer), there must be another – and much better – way to live than spending most hours of everyday in bed and feeling unwell and weak and suffering. There must be an escape from the fears brought about by one’s sickness, inadequacy, and incapacity. Fears that show themselves as nervousness, anxiety and panic attacks that drive the heart to beating so fast and the breathing haywire. (This happens when I get worried about a loved one’s safety or the like).

There must be a deliverance from this kind of harsh suffering.

And there must be a doorway through which the bright sunshine of tomorrow can pass in all its radiance. When kids go away for a time for leadership camps or when they represent the school in global leadership conferences in another country – there must be joy and rejoicing and celebrations of victory, and not a whirlwind of fears and worries of how on earth a sick mother would be able to handle it all?

Or how would the same mother stanch the desire of being able to go away at last with family this Christmas season? How would she block the thoughts that come unbidden, of evergreens and cozy lodges away in the mountains and the incandescent faces of family, for at last they have gone away, especially that of the kid who has lived a decade on earth and still has not experienced a family getaway with his beloved mom with them?

How can a mother just steel her heart and not feel or think or dream of any of those things?

<Whisper> Dreaming for me has become a painful thing.

So I beg. I beg for a miracle. I beg for healing. I beg to be released. I beg to be raised up. I beg to be enabled.

I am a beggar before God. This is the best position I can take in my situation.

Aren’t we all beggars before Him in one way or another? Haven’t we all been Bartimaeus at one time or another? Or the Canaanite woman? Or Jairus?

And behold, there came a man named Jairus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue. And he fell down at Jesus’ feet and begged Him to come to his house, 42 for he had an only daughter about twelve years of age, and she was dying… (Luke 8:41-42, emphasis mine)

Aren’t we beggars all?

I ache to understand this: Why, after the Lord Jesus promised, that when we seek, we shall find; when we knock, the door will be opened to us; when we ask, it will be given to us – the thing that is most sought after is not found, the door is not opening, and the thing most fervently asked is not received?

I ache to know the answer to this: Why, after the Lord Jesus promised that If [we] can believe, all things are possible to him who believes – that one very important thing we are believing in is not becoming possible?

So, we cry and continue to cry, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

We are beggars before God in prayer but not beggarly. For we are heirs of eternal life. And whether now or then we might receive answers to our deepest prayers, the Lord Jesus Christ should be enough. And He will give us peace and joy for the journey.

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I Wish I Could Tell You

I balance my 9″ x 12″ Saunders Waterford watercolor paper block on my lap (I paint in bed now). I reach out for the masking tape, my eyes and back drooping, heavy from hurt, sadness, and the burden of sickness and suffering. My arms and hands are weak aggravated by the wounds of angry words and accusations. But I want to start to paint because it is an escape. It is a place where I may find acceptance, peace and joy. It is a gift from God and it is mine alone. My world. My friend.

A painting from last year. "Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand." That Queen Anne teacup duo is a gift from an IG teacup seller. The Lord loves and blesses us in many wonderful, delightful ways.

A painting from last year. “Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.” That Queen Anne teacup duo is a gift from an IG teacup seller. The Lord loves and blesses us in many wonderful, delightful ways.

I line the edges of the block with the masking tape, tears pooling in my eyes but don’t spill. It is the soul that weeps. I lift the pencil to draw on the white smooth surface of the paper and I feel it descending upon me, this old acquaintance: self-pity.

I have just recovered from physical difficulties, wrapping myself in my pink flannel blanket as my insides trembled. I am grateful that with the warmth of my blanket and the peace of God that passes understanding, my body recovered (once again as countless times before!) and the angry words inflicted upon my heart and soul were momentarily forgotten.

Earlier, I woke up with the thrilling anticipation of doing something (though not that adventurous) I knew would at least lift up my spirits. I was looking forward to the bright possibilities of the day. My body wasn’t that “good” (my kind of good), but I wanted to subject myself into the thrill. To the hungry soul, every bitter thing sweet.

But it didn’t turn out the way I had hoped.

I wish I could tell you that only love and compassion surround a sick person. I wish I could tell you that in a Christian’s life, there is only fruitfulness in the Spirit, number one of which is love.

I wish I could tell you that only healing words are released towards a suffering one, a hand that blesses with its touch, a look that speaks of love, and thoughts of genuine care.

I wish I could tell you that there is only the kindness of four while they bear their sick friend in a cot to bring to the Healer, eager to scale up the wall, hauling the cot with the sick person in it to reach the roof so that from there, they could dangle their burden in front of the One who could make him well.

I wish I could tell you there is only fervent, sacrificial love among brethren.

I wish I could tell you there’s only this:

Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification [uplifting], that it may impart grace [compassion, goodness, kindness, love] to the hearers.

 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted…

(Selections from Ephesians 4).

But I can’t. For there is also the poor woman who had an issue of blood 12 years and who was alone in her suffering. How sad and silent her world had been! For with her kind of affliction, she was considered unclean. Understandably, she was shunned. She was so alone that no one would even care to walk with her to search for the Healer. She had no one to send to Him and say, “Lord, please come and heal my wife/daughter/sister/friend”. We know that there was no husband or mother or sibling or friend that was mentioned. She was alone. And in her sickness and weakness, she had to crawl and creep behind Him who could end all her miseries.

And you remember also the crippled man who had been in that situation 38 years? He had no one to bring him to the pool when the water was troubled. So he never had the chance to even dip his toes into the water, let alone swim there to be healed.

He had no one who cared. That is, until Jesus.

Do you think that it would be far better if the heart learned to not be hurt by any external stimuli? But how? Unless the heart becomes numb, which is a worse thing. Or maybe when the heart has grown and expanded so wide that it could swallow up any hurts, like scarlet paint spreading through water. But I believe that the heart was made to feel, whether joy or pain. It’s part of being human.

When we find ourselves heartbroken, a song finds its way to our hearts. And so this song finds its way to mine.

Praise His Name

When you’re up against a wall
And your mountain seems so tall
And you realize that life’s not always fair
You can run away and hide
Let the old man decide
Or you can change your circumstances with a prayer

When everything falls apart
Praise His Name
And when you have a broken heart
Just raise your hands and say
Lord, you’re all I need
You’re everything to me
And you’ll take the pain away

When it seems you’re all alone
Praise His Name
When you feel you can’t go on
Just raise your hands and say
Greater is He that is within me
You can praise the hurt away
If you’ll just praise His Name

Ohhh,
You can overcome
By the blood of the lamb
And by the word of your testimony
You’ll see the darkness go
As your faith begins to grow
You’re not alone, so how can you be lonely

When we find ourselves bereft of compassion from others, there is One who is really compassionate to us. The One who gave His all on the cross.

I believe that it is from the sparseness of love that hurts sprout. All kinds of problems arise when there is lack of love. Faults look big when love is small, remember?

But we are never far from love, for if we belong to Christ, we belong to love. When we abide in Him, we abide in love.

And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. (1 John 4:16, emphasis mine)

So abide. He will come to our Bethesdas. Or when He passes by, we could crawl up behind Him to touch even His garment. There is always healing at the end.

Amen and amen!

Here’s the song, the current theme song of my life :) .

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Faithfulness and Persistence

To the sick and suffering who have been in the same difficult situation for so long a time, these, faith and persistence, could become so shabby, lackluster, that one needs to wipe the dusty surface to have a glimpse of them once again. This could happen when, for years one prays for miraculous healing and it doesn’t come, and instead, there could be more suffering. This doesn’t mean that faithfulness in God is gone for good. No. It’s just that, one’s fervency for that petition so sought for could diminish. Maybe one would still continue praying for it but the “faith that could move mountains” has waned. Importunity (persistence) is also gone.

My painting from last year. I hope you like it.

My painting from last year. I hope you like it.

That is, until one finds oneself in a harder place where there is no other thing to do but find one’s way back to them – faith and persistence – dust them up, polish and let them shine once more. Let them do their work once more.

For you see, even hope could grow faint and wax weak. One could lose one’s tight grip on it and when that happens, one finds oneself despairing once again. To lose hope and courage – it’s scary. But if we revive our faithfulness to God and our persistence in seeking Him and presenting our supplications to Him, there could still be a remnant of strength left in one’s spirit. And with that, hope. For these, faithfulness and hope, they fortify each other. And prayer in faith is the fuel upon which persistence operates.

As I have said, they could become lackluster, especially when, after a very long time of holding onto them, one still has not received answer to a very important prayer. One is still sick and suffering terribly perhaps. But if the going gets tougher and tougher, one knows that these – faith in God and persistence (importunity) – are the only things one can hold onto, that can bring one from this day to the next. That can rekindle hope.

And so, instead of entertaining the budding feelings of discouragement, self-pity, and despair inside (or the temptation to sulk against God), I am brushing up my strong faith in Him and pursuing Him with persistent determination once again.

I am praying this:

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. (Eph. 6:10-11)

I confess, feelings of hopelessness and despair sometimes creep into my heart, but I never – NEVER – let them flourish. However hard sickness and suffering is, I can’t afford to do that. I am a mother. I guess that says it all.

By God’s persistent grace, He revives us every now and then. This is more significant when one finds oneself in the lions’ den or in the fiery furnace heated up seven times than usual.

Do we still have Daniels and Shadrachs, Meshachs, and Abednegos abiding deep within us?

Do we still have that faith to face the hungry lions once again and believe – BELIEVE and TRUST – that God will send His angel once again to stop their mouths from devouring us?

Do we still have that faith that the Lord Jesus Christ will walk with us in the midst of the fire and we will walk out of the furnace without being burned?

Why are lions’s dens and fiery furnaces not shut down for good, like closed down factories which churn out obsolete products?

But we know that they will always be around until kingdom come. But the Word of God will remain. THE. WORD. OF. GOD. WILL. REMAIN!

In the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the Lord Jesus said,

Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. (Mat. 24:35)

And what does His Word say? It is only this:

But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name;
You are Mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you.
For I am the Lord your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior… (Is. 43:1-3)

These are so beautiful promises, but again, I confess: In the thick of sickness and suffering, one may feel like drowning in the deep waters instead of walking on them. One may feel like being melted through the fire.

It is during these times that our faith must not fail. Even for this, we need to ask the Lord Jesus’ help and intercession, remembering His assurance to Apostle Peter as also His assurance to us: “But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail” (see Luke 22:32).

In Luke 11 (KJV Bible), the Lord Jesus tells of a story between two friends and how importunity of the one got him what he wanted from the other. The story was a preface to what the Lord really wanted to say: for us to ask, seek, knock.

To be importunate is to be “overly persistent in request or demand”¹. In the story of the two friends, the one being asked didn’t want to be bothered for he and his family were already abed, but because he was his friend and because of his importunity, he rose and gave what his friend needed.

The Lord Jesus is saying that it is the same with our relationship with Him: we are His friends and He encourages us to importune Him, to ask and beg Him urgently, persistently, even troublesomely.

Sometimes we grow weary, yes, but the Holy Spirit leads us back to God’s Word over and over again and to believe and trust in its mighty power to do that which He intended it for.

“For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven,
And do not return there,
But water the earth,
And make it bring forth and bud,
That it may give seed to the sower
And bread to the eater,
11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” (Is. 55:10-11, emphasis added)

He will send His word and heal (Ps. 107:20). Amen.

¹ Merriam-Webster

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The Lives We Live

I stir in bed. I know it’s nearing noon, I need to rise up, but my body wants to linger a little longer under the warm sheets. I slept at around 4 this morning, all night long my left leg wouldn’t relent. Of all nights! The discomfort in my legs was more intense than usual last night, it felt like it reached to the marrow and it was hard to sleep. The kids left for school without stopping by. Or maybe they did but found me fast asleep at last. I stretch and get ready for my morning devotion, my eyes roaming around the still-dark room (the undrawn drapes block out the sunlight). On my marble painting table sit the two white orchid plants, a huge 50-piece yellow rose bouquet, and a basket of flowers and fruits. They certainly make the room lovely. And although I have not (yet) received the answer to my fervent prayer, looking at the beautiful flowers make me feel blessed.

This was just a very quick dabble as I have been on bedrest for the past 2 days, but I will do better next time. Promise.

This was just a very quick dabble (using up remaining paints on my palette) as I have been on bedrest for the past 2 days, but I will do better next time. Promise.

Yesterday, alone in my room watching the live streaming of our church’s worship service (hubby and the kids attend church; the kids sing in the choir), a courier delivered a pretty basket of fresh flowers (that included dark pink sweet peas) and fruits. While the maid talked to the courier, I was wondering who would be sending a package since I didn’t order anything. When I saw it, then I remembered. The wonder of it all is that, I always manage to forget about these yearly gifts a beautiful and beloved sister in Christ faithfully sends on my birthday for over half a decade now. So, I am always surprised! 😀 And she lives in Kuwait! And we have never met in person.

But she never fails to make me feel loved and blessed no matter how hard I’m going through. Bless her beautiful soul!

Then last night after midnight, Felix left the room and came back carrying two potted blooming white orchids. They are so lovely I almost couldn’t believe they are real. On his second trip to the garage, he came back carrying a huge bouquet of yellow-gold roses.

“Oh, these are so many! What, 36? 48?” I asked, thinking about all the numbers divisible by 12 😀 .

“50, of course!” He answered. Fifty yellow-gold roses for my 50th birthday. Of course!

“Happy birthday, mahal.”

Today, Monday, October 2, is my birthday. Beginning the first day of September, I prayed a special prayer: that I will receive the gift of my healing. But nothing changed, in my life and in my body. Maybe in another day or time, I would have been deeply hurt. Why is the Lord Jesus so quiet in that regard? But not today. Today, I will not dwell on hurts or self-pity or discouragements. Today, I will do my best to celebrate and be happy.

Later in the afternoon when the kids arrived from school, I managed to wash my face and brush my hair for a decent picture-taking. Honestly, I just wanted to sit in front of the camera and let it capture what it could. Let it gather all the stories my face, my body, my head would be telling. I wanted my picture taken to share with friends on FB and IG but I didn’t want to “embellish” a perfectly happy and contented facade I wasn’t feeling or carrying somewhere within me. What I wrote on the caption was this:

Sometimes there are so many things- different stories and themes, reasons and motives, thanksgivings and praise – that one would like to say, but time and space and words may not be adequate, so one would think that it’s better to say nothing at all.

If a picture can tell all the battles won and still fighting
If it can reveal how many walks through the “valley of the shadow of death” there were
Or if it can explain the joy that pierces through like a ray of sunshine slicingthe dark, menacing clouds
If it can express all the melodies and lyrics of a song of praise and thanksgiving ithat have enlivened the soul in spite of
If it can show all at once all the hopes and fears, all the desires, longings and despair, the unwavering faith and sometimes tottering perseverance and courage
Then let it speak and the words need not be written.

But one knows that it cannot.

Screenshot 2017-10-10 16.42.16

My family.

My family.

Screenshot 2017-10-10 16.37.46

I often wonder what my life might be called. A half-life? Thinking that I’m not living on normal health and strength. But even that moniker is not correct. For my strength is not even half the normal. What would a life that operates on a fraction of strength and a slew of indescribable and scary physical hardships that is far removed from the normal order of things be called?

Sometimes it feels like it’s all like a child’s play. The things I strive to do to show the world I am living a wonderful life in spite of – it feels like they are not really real or complete or normal. Like I am an alien  trying to live on earth like any other human does. But I know that mine is entirely different and I feel like an “outsider”. They only see that I am sitting there on a sofa with a smile on my face, sporting a light makeup and wearing new clothes. What they don’t see is the wheelchair that brought me there and how hubby and kids scamper to make me comfortable: electric fan directed towards my face, sandals put on my feet, hair fixed, etc.

Or when I take photos of my “teascape” and share them on IG. They only see the pretty tea set and the inspiring caption, but they don’t see the hands that washed and put them there. The hands that assisted me while I sat and waited. A child’s play.

But my behind-the-scenes role as a wife and a mother is downright real. I pray hard and pound on heaven’s door for my family just like any other healthy Christian mom does. My writing/blogging and watercolor painting life, thank God, is also very real!

I hope that I don’t sound like I’m whining, because honestly I’m not. I’m just trying to share and explain how hard life like mine is. I could use the word “difficult”, but it doesn’t say anything except that it’s difficult. But when I say it’s hard, I may be describing a hard wall, a hard ground, a hard place, a hard situation, a hard hand, a hard deal.

But in the hard, I beg the Lord (just as much as I beg for my healing) for fruitfulness in the Holy Spirit. For what is a life without fruit? In a desolate land, in the wilderness, one could still be fruitful. And maybe even more so. Because in the wilderness, one’s bread is the Word of God. It is the manna that one gathers each day for one’s sustenance and growth.

A fruitful life is the Word of God lived. Each and every day. And that is my light, my encouragement, and my hope.

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The Meaning and Purpose of Life 2

I had written the same theme a while back, so why is there a need again to write another? Well, I hope it’s not entirely another, but a support of what I had written before. For when you are sick and suffer everyday (and you also see the suffering in the world or among your friends and acquaintances), you can’t help but continue looking for answers and sense, for light, for some understanding, so as to be able to continue trudging through this thing called life. For when you continue to be in the dark and not being able to grasp the meaning and purpose of your existence, it is hard to even face another day. It is hard to plan, to hold joy and hope, and look forward to a bright tomorrow.

LIGHTS. A painting from last year (I wasn't able to paint a new one for the blog theme :( ). My son Tim took the photo of the gladiola in the garden and I painted it. It is now framed and graces the wall near the dining area.

LIGHTS. A painting from last year (I wasn’t able to paint a new one for the blog theme :( ). My son Tim took the photo of the gladiola in the garden and I painted it. It is now framed and graces the wall near the dining area.

So, in the midst of illness, as I struggle against the suffering and go thorough it scared and so uncertain (you never get used to it or become comfortable with it!), questions about the meaning and purpose of life snake in and out of my mind and won’t relent.

Why are we even here when life is rife with hardships and suffering, often senseless and always painful?

Life is short and even shorter for others. You grow, you study, you get a career, you wed, settle and start a family. And in between those stages of life, you may find yourself face down on the dirt, weary, surrendered, riddled with problems, grief and pain, or illness.

In the span of a lifetime, you toil, you do all those for it is what we were taught, and then what? It all comes down to the end, and then what? What was our life? What was it all about?

Was it our stellar career? Was it rearing children that later on became successful in their own right? Was it retiring well, and then comes the end and we close our eyes and open them no more, at least not on this side of life.

Is that, really, the meaning and purpose of life? To be a successful career person, almost-perfect parent, one who saw the beautiful places this world has to offer? Who went on adventures, who enjoyed the best things in life?

What if your career is cut short by an illness? What if your dreams are dashed and your tomorrows are extinguished by, again, illness?

A beloved sister in Christ, the wife of a preacher in our church, went to be with the Lord recently. She was a school teacher and she just finished her master’s degree. She was looking forward to a brighter future in her teaching career, for she loved what she did. Then cancer struck. In that short time between finding her place in this world, working and dreaming and serving the Lord, and then her early passing – there must have been meaning and purpose to it. There must have been. Otherwise, we go back to the same questions.

I used to have a stellar career. I established my own chemicals company and built our office building with a small lab. I married and gave birth to my dream daughter. I honestly thought it was the perfect life, the absolute fulfilment of a dream. I honestly thought this. was. life. That the meaning and purpose of my life was right there in the middle of it all and I was the reigning queen.

When the life and health that I knew and enjoyed disappeared like a thin smoke and the career and dreams going with it, what then is the meaning and purpose of my life?

So, there must be that one thing where we could find the meaning and purpose to life and anchor ourselves wholly to it. For success, adventures, homes, health, relationships, material things – they could all be taken away and what will be left of us? An empty shell that walks like a zombie, a tumbleweed that is driven by the wind in the desolate place?

I refuse to accept that that is all of life. And yet, we go back to the question: Why did God put us here when we would see and experience so much pain and suffering? When we would despair even of life? If He has promised Heaven, and it is what we ultimately look forward to, what are we doing on this earth now? What are we supposed to do here now? For we know that life is short and the good things are not eternal but temporal.

Where can we settle our hearts and be peaceful and hopeful and faithful there?

How can we apply God’s truth to our lives so that we will embrace it as the meaning and purpose of our existence and then be single-minded about it? And then we will learn to live in it and bask in it and grow and be fruitful and flourish in it.

The answer to these questions I wrote in the first part and you can read it here (if you haven’t yet or you would like to be refreshed).

I am taking the meaning and purpose of my life as being a part of God. I am a part of God for He has created me and loved me before the foundation of the world. He has loved me with an everlasting love. A love that has no end. It has been a big problem for me to begin to understand that kind of love or even to fully accept it, especially through long sickness and suffering. I have questioned and doubted it deep in my heart. But if I would start to look at it this way, that God put me into this world to give me life and meaning and purpose and that He will always be with me (because He will not forsake the work of His hand), the heaviness and fears start to be lifted off.

If I believe in the truth that I am a part of Him and can never be separated from Him and therefore He is with me no matter what I go through, then I can begin to settle my whole self – mind, heart, body, soul – to His keeping. For His plan, for His purposes, for His delight. 

So then I could begin to live as His very own no matter where I go. He carries me and I carry Him in my heart. Then I understand that the meaning and purpose of my life is for God to love, to lead, to try, to teach, to bless, to provide for, to enjoy. All for His glory.

“Everyone who is called by My name,
Whom I have created for My glory;
I have formed him, yes, I have made him.” (Is. 43:7)

Then we fulfil the purpose of our creation, of our being here: for His glory. When we live as a part of God and know that we can never be separated from Him and go through life being accessible to Him to guide and love and enjoy, then we do those things that are pleasing in His sight. It will be easier then. We will do it willingly and with gladness. For for Him to enjoy us and delight in us, we must love and adore Him as fervently. 

The meaning and purpose of life is to be wholly God’s and to live in that truth.

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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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“How Great Thou Art” {A Little Testimony}

Like any other testimony of God’s wonders and grace, whether a major one or of the everyday kind, this story began at the deepest end of human emotions: weariness, anger, resentment, lostness, helplessness. Of hope flying away; faith groping in the dark; heart bordering to rebellion. Against God. A body and heart that have been so hurt by the — unresponsive God. A soul that wept and shook and shed tears and poured out its bitter complaint.

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I am so sorry that I have to go through this again, but I promise that, like all other testimonies, it will be glorious in the end.

Last week, the flu bug found me and as if my present illness and suffering weren’t enough, the flu had to do its work also. It left my body feeling like it was tightly tied by a taut, thick rope from the head to the feet. The problems and discomforts that I used to suffer everyday intensified and felt like there was no relenting, especially on Tuesday. In the evening, exhausted and “sick and tired” of my situation, I attempted to listen to our church’s praise and worship on YouTube, but after just a few minutes, my breathing wasn’t improving and the music wasn’t helping, so I muted it.

I turned on my side and waited out for relief. When I was feeling strong enough to write on my prayer journal, I poised myself to do so. But already at this time, my heart was breaking. From hurt, disappointment, anger, and hope fading.

Below I share with you the words I wrote on my journal. I am sharing this with you because it’s part of the story. And because there is always this hope in my heart that, when I share my story and soul, someone, anyone, who might read it will be blessed as I pray God would intend to use it. And bring Him glory.

22nd August ’17

     Father in heaven, I always do my best to be good for You though I know that, oftentimes, I fail. Still, I strive to do so. I always do my best to pick myself up no matter how hard I am suffering.

     But I am weary, Father. I am weary of this suffering – relentless, cruel, punishing. My complaint rises up from within me like bile. My heart is in bitter complaint because of this suffering that seems endless.

     I’m only human. I am made of flesh and bones. I am weak. I suffer everyday and there is no end to it. I feel bitter. I feel discouraged. I feel… angry, somehow. Why is the punishment on my body never ends? I beg for Your mercy, but still, the suffering, the illness, clings to me like my own skin.

     I feel helpless.

     I am lost. I don’t know what to do, what to think, where to go.

     I feel lost.

     I am weak. I can’t fight this feeling of disheartenment.

     I don’t know what to say. I want to hurl things and smash them against the wall. Yes, there is anger in my heart. There is resentment. There is bitterness. Who wouldn’t be bitter? 14 years of sickness and suffering.

     I am in the dark. I can’t see light. My heart is gripped with sorrow. My faith is groping. I don’t know what to do.

     I don’t have the inspiration to do what I must do.

     I’m pitiful. I’m lost in my hope. [Here, I abruptly stopped and closed my journal as sobbing wracked my body].

I closed my journal and howled in my anguish. I thought about the Lord Jesus Christ, the words beloved and best friend so far away like shrouded in thick fog. But in my weeping, I uttered the words “Healer, Healer, Healer” and “Deliverer, Deliverer, Deliverer” over and over, not to beg, but to ask, “What do they really mean?” This was the question behind those words.

I prayed towards heaven as tears kept on rolling, “Father, please do not let me suffer so much that I would fall into doubt, unbelief, or rebellion!” I cried some more, curled up like a fetus in the womb.

When I was exhausted at last (and my complaints, too), I looked at my TV screen. The praise and worship video was still there, suspended, waiting. But my heart wasn’t yearning to praise and worship. It wasn’t into it, so I didn’t force it. I clicked it close and went to Home, intending to search for Jesus movie. I was thinking that maybe, when I see the Lord Jesus (even if only a movie), teaching, loving, caring, healing – my heart would have a turnaround.

I know Jesus. I know my Shepherd. But I’m not okay now. Such were the whisperings of my soul.

But when I reached YouTube Home, the video Hymn History “How Great Thou Art” caught my eye and I said, “I’ll watch this first.”

I watched it and when finally, the beloved hymn was played, I was unprepared as to what was to come.

By the second stanza, something began to happen.

When through the woods, and forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.

“I know, Father. Though I haven’t been through the woods and forest glades, or on top of the mountain or near the brook, my soul knows them,” my heart whispered, the course of tears on my cheeks still damp. “I know the sound of the birds singing sweetly in the trees. I know it so well.”

And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing;
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin.

I first saw (or heard?) the lyrics even as I shifted my eyes on the cross, and there, He took me totally unexpectedly. He took me wholly, and my anguish, too. The weight of His Truth, my salvation story, and His love – the weight of glory – it can topple one onto one’s knees and assume the posture of worship. The worship of God with the whole spirit. The worship of God that relinquishes any traces of complaint.

And I was reduced to someone who needs saving once again. Someone who is a sinner and a recipient of God’s amazing grace. Someone who was a filthy rag but was washed by the blood of my Savior Jesus Christ – my best friend and beloved.

I flung my arms upwards and shouted with all the strength I had, “I love You, my dearest Lord Jesus! I love You, I love You, I love You!” as fresh tears once again smeared my face.

The weight of God’s glory upon one’s spirit is restoring.

It is not my striving to be perfect that draws me to the throne of grace. It is my great neediness.

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