In His Time

When I saw their picture together – relief, joy, and the dawning of happiness etched on their faces- I cried. I cried in joy and in a sudden gust of hope and inspiration. That kind of hope and inspiration that breaks through the hard, rock-encrusted trial (at least for me). I rejoiced with them in my spirit, not only because I was really happy for them but because their picture is an embodiment of a dream come true. A prayer answered. I rejoiced because God was showing me there is still beauty, hope, and light in this dim, suffering-laden world.

One of my practice paintings 2 years ago. Notice that I still hadn't learned the technique of shadowing between flowers.

One of my practice paintings 2 years ago. Notice that I still hadn’t learned the technique of shadowing between flowers.

Belle came to work for us in 2004. She is my husband’s cousin. She became part nanny and part caregiver. There was a time when she was bathing me: she was bowed down, concentrating on rubbing my feet with the soapy towel. I felt so touched by the sacrifice that I gently touched her head and said, “Someday, the Lord Jesus will bless you and reward your love and sacrifices.”

Not long afterwards, she found work abroad as an OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) with better compensation. When she transferred to Hong Kong, she became a choir member in our church’s outreach station there. Later on, after years of working in Hong Kong and serving the Lord faithfully there, she found her lifetime partner. They came home and got married in Belle’s hometown in the province. It was a simple, yet lovely wedding. Belle was a pretty, radiant bride.

Her husband (also a young OFW) returned to his work in New Zealand while Belle stayed in the province waiting for her petition to follow him. It was quite a long separation and there were a few difficulties in processing her papers. She spent the time cooking and selling meals in front of the school. She was also a faithful companion of my newly-widowed beloved mother-in-law. They attended church together regularly.

But at long last, Belle finally flew to New Zealand and be reunited with her husband. The photo I mentioned above was taken when they met each other at the airport: eyes shining, smiles breaking forth across there faces without reserve.

And I cried. I cried for the sheer joy of dreams fulfilled and lived. Of hardships overcome. Of love triumphing. Of perfect health and new beginnings and bright, shining tomorrows. Yes, I cried and rejoiced even if they weren’t my own. There is hope in the world. There is hope for each one of us who loves the Lord to pieces.

In His time.

In His time, He makes dreams come true. In His time, He heals all our diseases and binds up our wounds. In His time, He makes all things beautiful.

Everything Has Its Time

To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:

A time to be born,
    And a time to die;
A time to plant,
    And a time to pluck what is planted;
A time to kill,
    And a time to heal;
A time to break down,
    And a time to build up;
A time to weep,
    And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn,
    And a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones,
    And a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace,
    And a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to gain,
    And a time to lose;
A time to keep,
    And a time to throw away;
A time to tear,
    And a time to sew;
A time to keep silence,
    And a time to speak;
A time to love,
    And a time to hate;
A time of war,
    And a time of peace.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. (Ecc. 3:1-8, 11)

So, hold on to your faith, dear ones. Better things and better days are yet to come. Amen and Amen!

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A Life of Gratefulness

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

gratefulness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I feel You to the left and right

So close and yet just out of sight

I search where promises are kept.

I know You’re real

And somehow still

You’re watching over me

And You will always be until heaven

Brings me home to You

I’ll remember You will always be here

In my heart.

I ache inside but journey on

What is this desperate dream I chase

The distance cruel but yearning grows…

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

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

And ended with —

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

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

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

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

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

I have a healthy, active son.

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

He believes in wonders.

He is inventive.

He is a joy to me.

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

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

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On Trudging, Patience, and Gratitude

Trudging through life. That’s exactly how I feel. Being unable to stand up and walk and move normally, with the constant discomforts brought by acid reflux, uncomfortable breathing, fatigue, weakness, and dizziness, my daily life is far different from the life I used to know more than a decade ago, or the lives of those around me and the people I know. It’s hard. Most days it’s like plowing through knee-deep snow (although I haven’t really tried that yet) or clay, where every single step takes a lot of effort and energy.

WINTER. My watercolor painting of a bird and dried up cherries in winter on 9" x 12" wc paper. (Reference photo by Betty Wiley on Flickr via Pinterest).

WINTER. My watercolor painting of a bird and dried up cherries in winter on 9″ x 12″ wc paper. (Reference photo by Betty Wiley on Flickr via Pinterest).

So, it’s like that: I trudge through the hours, days, weeks, and months. It’s like going over a hurdle from the last one to the next, heaving a huge sigh of relief and gratitude in between. One school term to the next. That means a three-month worth of homework and tutoring done and over with. One special occasion celebrated – photos taken, singing and laughters rang out, delectable food enjoyed, smiles exchanged, and thank-yous blown out towards heaven – to the next.

One heavy step after another. By faith. In faith.

I can no longer remember the last time that I cruised through life, breezing from one activity to another and waltzing through one celebration to the next.

That is what I see the people around me do. I find it hard to live and move with the rush and exhilaration around me, that’s why I often retreat to my quiet world where lack of strength is welcome and exhaustion finds rest. Hours of quiet, inactivity and recovery tick away with difficulty, but these, too, shall pass. Until the next activity. That and my deep desire to nurture a gentle and quiet spirit, much like Mary’s. With all the excitement around her with the birth of the Savior and the shepherds paying homage, Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart (Luke 2:19). No stress for Mary!

I hope that I don’t sound like I’m grumbling. I am only trying to explain how it feels like to be me, to trudge through life, and yet, learning the virtue of patience and living grateful at the same time.

True patience is devoid of complaints. That’s why it’s a virtue. It holds the character of a quiet, enduring, and sometimes, sacrificing, spirit. In the KJV Bible, it is called long-suffering and part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:4)

It’s the schoolroom of patience that we become perfect and complete. To run with patience the race that is set before us.

It is through the diligent practice of patience that we overcome, crossing one gulf to the next.

There is no more vivid example of that than in my swimming through the waters of a school term. Every afternoon, I anticipate the arrival of the kids from school. I set aside whatever I am working on, may it be a watercolor painting, working with my laptop, etc., and rest and be ready to welcome the kids. To offer them food when they are hungry, to massage feet when they are sleepy, and most of all, to tackle the homework and lessons. Being a very diligent and conscientious student once, I am the same in tutoring the kids, Tim now, especially. It is a task I don’t want to scrimp on.

You can’t imagine the relief I felt when suddenly – the term is over! And my Tim got straight As. Hallelujah! My trudging has been rewarded, now onto the next. Tim is just in grade 3 now. We have a loooong way to go. But always, we operate with the grace and strength of the Lord with unceasing prayers.

Last Saturday, December 3, we celebrated Tim’s birthday. We only invited 2 of his closest friends from our neighborhood because I can’t entertain people outside of family. I thought that Tim and his friends would just romp around then eat. My mistake. The grandmother of one of the friends came (she is a long time friend of the family), with the baby sister and a nanny in tow. I was in the patio ready to celebrate with the family and I could no longer flee to the sanctuary of my room.

To make the story short, I was able to visit with the granny-friend, took some photos and a video of everybody singing Happy Birthday and Tim blowing the candle on his cake (all of it happened in a whirl, as far as I was concerned, for I was fretting within, being very conscious of exhausting myself). And then had to embarrassingly excuse myself and hastily escape to my room because I couldn’t hold off the dizziness and exhaustion any longer. I was so embarrassed to ride in my wheelchair in front of them all but I didn’t have any choice. That’s what I had been avoiding to happen, that’s why I don’t open our doors to visitors. The nanny was openly staring at me like I was from another planet. Ugh!

But before the evening was over, (for Ate Irene, my neighbor-friend, followed me later to the bedroom where I was resting), I was able to sell her my entire 4-piece original IRIS painting collection, on 12″ x 16″!

I was fatigued but the night had its own rewards. I could forget about the stares when I had to hastily leave in my wheelchair. I only needed to focus on the good part: I was able to visit with a long-time neighbor and see her admire my paintings to the extent that she couldn’t almost make up her mind what to get. That makes me feel appreciated and it somewhat validates my work and gives me a feeling of fulfilment. All for the glory of my Father in heaven!

At the end of a long, tiring day, gratefulness is what is really needed. A grateful heart soothes and smoothes out stresses. It sorts out the lovely from the ugly and focuses and holds onto that. It brings back our perspective to look unto Jesus for He is our comfort and rest.

Gratefulness conveys us to another day, to rise up and welcome the new morning with hope and great expectations. For miracles happen everyday. Just be on the lookout for them.

It is of the Lord‘s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.

23 They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.

24 The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. (Lam. 3:22-24)

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Pride and Reputation

What’s really holding us back into the fullness of Christlikeness? Why do we slide back in our faith journey time and time again? There could be a lot of things that stunt our spiritual growth, in growing in the grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:18). Number one could be the world’s influence. It could influence our beliefs, mindsets, and affections and create conflicts in our being, that is,  if we are not fully surrendered to God. This influence spawns pride and all the other things attached to it. An air of self-importance and a desire to be regarded highly, for example. Pride comes in many disguises, and yes, it could deceive the not-so-vigilant Christian. That’s why it’s important that we should be humble enough to subject our hearts and motives to close examination and keep our hearts open to God for counsel and correction.

pride

But that’s not always the case. Sometimes, we succumb to our intense emotions and let them trump our desire and disposition to obey Christ. When that happens, we have let the world’s beliefs and teachings to overcome our belief in and grasp of the truth of God’s Word.

The world’s beliefs and teachings run contrary to the Lord Jesus’ teachings. And yet, if we are not that diligent in following Christ and walking after the Spirit (we may be lax in praising, praying, reading the Bible, and fasting), we may consciously or unconsciously adapt the world’s beliefs and mindsets, letting them affect our dispositions, behaviors, and attitudes.

For instance, the world, through various self-help books, adamantly teaches about self-esteem. (And we have that natural tendency to think highly of ourselves, and that, if we are not totally surrendered to the Holy Spirit, it just might take a life of its own, rise up to invade our hearts and overpower us). But the Bible teaches us to esteem others better than ourselves and to forbear, with hearts ready to forgive.

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. (Phil. 2:3)

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. (Col. 3:12-13)

In another place, Apostle Paul teaches thus:

For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. (Rom. 12:3, emphasis mine)

We grow in the grace and knowledge of our Savior Jesus Christ through the Word of God. The Bible, especially the Gospels and the pastoral letters, teaches us everything we need to learn to know and obey Christ and grow into His fullness. But if we have not embraced the Word and let it permeate our being, or if we let ourselves starve of it, spending more time online, endlessly browsing our social media news feeds and watching worthless videos instead of reading the Bible and meditating on it, we will remain ignorant of the words of life and untrained in dealing with life graciously and competently.

To live in God’s Word is to live in true power.

But if we starve ourselves of it, we will always slide back. We will be a heavy burden to others instead of steadily growing, bearing much fruits, and leading others to Christ by the very life we lead.

The Word of God is truly a lamp unto [our] feet, and a light unto [our] path (Ps. 119:105). The wise in Christ utilize it to help them traverse this difficult thing called life and emerge victoriously. Being victorious doesn’t always mean we get what we pray for. It often means that we mature spiritually through the trials, learning as we should, and God accomplishing what He has purposed for us: conforming more and more to the image of His Son (see Rom. 8:29). For example, it is hard to readily forgive if we do not cling to the Word for wisdom and guidance. And yet, even if we know the Word, we still need to pray agonizingly with humble hearts and tears, for it to move mightily against the devil’s strongholds: pride, anger, selfishness, etc.

And it will. Unfailingly.

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. 55:11)

If we surrender to God’s Word powered by our unceasing prayers, it will deliver us and set us free from whatever is holding us captive, may it be anger, unforgiveness, lovelessness, coldness, indifference, etc.

But if we harden our hearts against it, if we wouldn’t listen to the Holy Spirit’s prodding and let our pride grow bigger than our stature, we have not really learned Christ. Our pride would blind us from the truth of God’s Word and we would be like a tree stump – short, stagnant, barely living.

Do you find it hard to let go of your desire to be treated with high repute to the point of hurting your relationships and being hard-hearted towards God’s Word? We can never discount the power of the Word in our lives. But if we do not know it, how can we apply it? If we do not study it, how can we abide in it?

This is what the Word can do:

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Heb. 4:12)

The Word will help us discern the intents and thoughts of our hearts when we subject ourselves to it. We can’t hide anything from it. If we know the truth, yet go on following our will and emotions, we live in hypocrisy.

Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin. (James 4:17)

We all want to receive this blessing from God:

The Lord make His face shine upon [us],
And be gracious to [us];
The Lord lift up His countenance upon [us],
And give [us] peace. (Num. 6:25-26)

How do we make that happen? The answer is in Isaiah 66:2:

“…But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, And who trembles at My word.” (Is. 66:2, emphasis mine)

When we make the Word our dwelling place, we are constantly guided and hard-heartedness will find no place in our lives.

I love the constant guidance of God through His abiding Holy Spirit and His Word. His voice may not be audible, but I can strongly sense His counsel, ever-guiding, ever-speaking to my heart. And when I feel like He is silent, I pray and draw closer to Him. Always, my prayers are accompanied with this silent whisper, “Draw me closer to You, oh, Lord.”

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Journey with Jesus,

Immeasurable

The day Felix and the kids went to Timberland for a day of swimming and breathing in nature, I finished my watercolor painting of poppies and then baked chicken BBQ buns. I didn’t want to think about how it could have been so lovely going with them and enjoying together the things the place had to offer. Timberland Sport and Nature Club is situated on top of the mountains of San Mateo, Rizal. The place overlooks the whole metropolis down below and neighboring mountains. The olympic-sized, infinity pool makes you feel like you’re on the edge of the earth :) . There’s an al fresco cafe and I wanted to imagine my husband and I enjoying some refreshments while the kids swam, the cool mountain breeze and resplendent view invigorating us.

immeasurable

But it was very quiet at home and in the quiet, I blocked all the “if only” thoughts and focused on the activities God gave me to accomplish on that day. He laced it with fresh inspiration yet again, balancing the melancholy with the joy of creating something: I would be baking buns and half of them I would send to our beloved pastor who has been weak and recuperating these past months. I also received inspiration to wrap birthday gifts for a hardworking couple in church who lead the choir. We have been blessed to be able to give, and giving gifts, however simple, has inspired me anew.

I recently wrote that when we learn to dwell in the everyday gifts of God and immerse ourselves in gratefulness and intentional thankfulness, our unsatisfied desires that threaten to undo us would turn to deep satiety in Him we never knew was possible. And indeed, the Lord is faithfully doing exactly that.

I also wrote sometime ago about my life flowing in trickles. I remember that again when Felix was assisting me bathe in my new clawed feet bathtub. He has to carry me from my wheelchair to the bathtub and back again after soaking in warm, scented waters for at least 30 minutes. It’s not easy for both of us (I’m quite heavy and though he exercises everyday, he still needs to exert a lot of muscle), but we are both grateful. On one of those bathroom episodes, while I basked in the aftermath of a warm, lavender bath, I commented, “Oh, thank You, dearest Lord Jesus! I’m so happy. So Dy, a little bath here, a little happiness there. I paint a little, bake a little, decorate the house a little… My life flowing in trickles and I can’t complain!”

A continuous trickle of life and blessings – I am deeply grateful.

I have discovered that the more we thank the Lord sincerely with all our heart, the more He draws us closer to Him. And when we are closer to Him, His blessings, though flowing in trickles, are magnified in such a way that they become bigger than our longings and desires. They become sources of great joy and gratitude so high and wide and deep they are immeasurable!

When Felix and the kids were away in Pampanga for the wedding of a young couple from Church, the threat of loneliness and bitterness hovered over me once again. My husband and I were principal sponsors and Tim was Bible bearer. The bride’s mother was a former employee of our company and who also happens to be my friend and the one who brought me to Jesus. So, we wanted to be present.

I persuaded Hannah, now a 15-year-old young adult who stands up to her Dad’s jaw, to be my proxy. After negotiations involving a promise of a Sakura watercolor set, she agreed. I had a full-lace, peach dress made for her, a new pair of quite expensive sleek heels, and a matching evening purse. She didn’t gloat as much as I did on those things, mind you (unlike me, she doesn’t have a single fashionista bone in her body 😀 ). But she was representing me and would be walking alongside her Dad on the aisle, so I didn’t want her looking shabby.

As we prepared on the wedding day, wistful thoughts came in and out of my mind, but I shoved them aside. Daddy and son were dapper in their suits. Wouldn’t it have been blissful if I were well and went with them with my own beautiful lace dress, walking with my husband, my hand wrapped around the crook of his arm?

My three loves at the wedding - The Lakeshore, Pampanga.

My three loves at the wedding – The Lakeshore, Pampanga.

It was a lakeside-and-wharf-themed wedding held at The Lakeshore Promenade in Mexico, Pampanga. How lovely is that? I wanted to be there, but I refused to think about the “what might have been” had I been well. The tempter came and tried to sow bitterness, saying, “How can you remain at peace with God when He denies the very things your soul so desires? How can you not be bitter against Him?”

I shook the thoughts away and shooed the pesky demon by not falling into his baits and taunts. I had been through enough pity parties and bitter sulks against God, I knew better.

And I have not forgotten my story. When the Lord Jesus found me, I was just out of a sinful relationship I barely survived, wrecking our family and another’s in the process. I was dying in my sin.

But Jesus came mightily with His love and light and the rest is history. His story, actually. All our salvation stories and testimonies are His. He has been writing them before the foundation of the world.

Now, He gives me enduring peace and joy that the world doesn’t understand. I feel loved by Him despite of lingering illness and physical difficulties. Do I have the license to be bitter after all He has done, saving me, wiping out all my sins, restoring my family, and sealing me for eternity, just because I”m not walking, running, or traveling as other people do? None whatsoever! His love is enough! We need to realize and understand that Jesus is enough and always will be. Can one attempt to measure Jesus’ love? Can one set boundaries to it?

It’s true that even at this hour, I’m still trying to know and grasp the width and length and depth and height of the love of Christ which passes knowledge (see Ephesians 3: 17-19). During those times of utter physical suffering, I secretly and silently questioned it in the depths of my soul. But now, He has translated the language of His love into something that I can comprehend, appreciate, and enjoy – healing (though partial), strength (both physical and spiritual), lessons learned (that would last me ’til eternity!), and joy overflowing!

With His latest gift to me – watercolor painting – He brings me fresh inspiration with each waking moment, filling my heart with bubbling eagerness to a promise of yet another day of vibrant colors and splashes that become beautiful works of art, sending my spirit into silently shouting, “Your compassions never fail! They are new every morning. Great is Thy faithfulness!”

If we learn to dwell in the place of active and intentional thankfulness, the things that seem to be lacking in our lives are dwarfed and eventually become insignificant, as we learn to look not at the things that are temporal but at the things that are eternal.

(Photo from Pinterest).

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Journey with Jesus,

The Gathering Table

I know breakfasts and snack times would be fun around our granite island in the kitchen, flipping pancakes and drizzling waffles with golden syrup in the nearby counters and stove. But it’s too far for me even with my wheelchair. Our main dining room which is very rarely used would also be an stylish place to celebrate special occasions, but I’m not comfortable there for a long period of time. Sometimes when I’m feeling extraordinarily well and have enough courage and excitement to go out of our bedroom, the center table in the living room is a nice place to gather with my people to celebrate. I would be reclining on the sofa while they sit on the carpet around the table, Japanese-style. But that only happens once or twice a year.

gathering_table

So, there’s this mobile table that I had it custom-made some years ago for our bedroom. Actually, it’s a mobile kitchen and dining table in one. When I’m well and strong prodded by an inspiration to feed my family with home-cooked goodness, I cook on it using a single-burner electric stove or grill. Often, it’s a preparation area for whatever we’re baking. But everyday, we gather around it to eat, sip tea, talk, play, paint, craft. It has carved its own place in our home, like a hearth. Or an old faithful dog. Always there to serve. Always waiting for the next gathering.

Because of my health condition, that mobile table has become the gathering table for our family through the years. It’s not only a physical gathering, but I believe, a spiritual one as we partake in the food and laughter and love and the hovering presence of our Lord Jesus Christ. So, it’s not only a simple partaking for physical nourishment, but also a fellowship with Him who provides it all: the family, the love, the joy, the connection. It is a rejoicing and celebration with Him.

Our gathering table is a table of thanksgiving. I cannot count the times that we have lifted up praises and thanksgiving to God around it for the blessings, answered prayers, and victories, hearts full. Just simply, His goodness and faithfulness. And always, remembering to invite Him into our celebrations (He’s the very reason for them!) is remembering to strengthen the ties that bind us to His Kingdom and with each other. If we believe that God’s presence is everywhere, then He’s present in our celebrations, too. He sits with us, dines with us, and even laughs with us.

So you shall rejoice in every good thing which the Lord your God has given to you and your house… (Deut. 26:11)

The story of our gathering table began years ago when our family was brittle, hurting, almost divided, the mended seams gaping open in some places. We were grappling with the change in our lives: struggling to follow Jesus’ and our Church’s teachings, to be pleasing to Him in how we live our new lives. And of course, there were my terrifying illness, the company which my husband took over and the many complexities and responsibilities that came with it, and the confusions and stresses that glued them all together so that we were weak against them. (And truth be told, the old and ugly attitudes of the “old man” were still clinging fast on us :(. I admit we were slow in bearing fruits).

My husband would often leave the house for the office after a painful, often ugly, disagreement, leaving me hurt and bewildered. Sometimes even young Hannah would receive sharp words from him and we would be clinging to each other after he had left, me, holding her tight, hoping that the words would be squeezed out of her pores. It was during these times that I intentionally stood up against the works of the devil in our lives: the strifes, the ugly and hurtful exchange of words, the heaviness, the pure misery. It was exactly these same things that drove me to rise up in victory, to create “beauty” in the face of the ugly. So, I would use every ounce of strength I had to prepare delicious food for the family and gather them around the table to humble ourselves before God, to tell Him about our miseries, and ask Him to turn the “ashes” into something beautiful. To transform the ugliness, darkness, and coldness that surrounded us into His light, love, and joy. We celebrated with the Lord to shake off the frolicking demons and trample them under our feet!

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! (Phil. 4:4)

Often, there were only the three of us gathered around: little girl Hannah, toddler Tim, and me. But I was thankful for those moments. I wanted our children to know and feel that love resided in our home. No matter what. The love and mercy of the Lord, His very presence – it’s what eases away the stinky, stinging,  black smoke of unkindness and harshness. The absence or lack of love among us.

Jesus’ love covers all our sins.

There were lasagna, grilled chicken, home-baked bread, ice cream, and any food that I believed the kids would like and appreciate. I would encourage them to smile. Laugh even. Yes, before long we would be laughing, pushing further away the hurts and the memory of them. And we were healed.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. (Ps. 147:3)

So, our table had been a faithful witness to it all: the tears, the prayers, the persevering faith and hope. The love as fragile as thin ice over a frozen lake. With a single cold, hurtful word, it just might crack again.

That was the history of our gathering table, made sturdy with the stories of our individual lives and those of our family as a whole.

But in recent years, as dark clouds gave way to shimmering light, our gathering table has heard more laughter than it could take. The stories – funny, heartwarming, uplifting, meaningful, lessons-filled – are ingrained into the wood, creating a patina that makes its hue deeper and more homey. Like a grandmother’s embrace. Or an old friend’s.

But it’s not really about the furniture, is it? It’s not the wood, its grain pattern, or its hue. It’s really the power of God’s love that binds and draws us closer together around it. Subdued. Expectant. Grateful. Celebratory. It is sacred in its purpose and function. So, it doesn’t need to be our mobile table, our kitchen’s granite island, or our formal dining table. Wherever we are gathered around, there is family, community, and fellowship with the Lord’s Spirit.

“For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” (Mat. 18:20)

Recently, when the family was all agog because Hannah and Tim both received medals in academic excellence in school during the year-end Reading of Honors, our gathering table beckoned and I thought, “We need to celebrate and invite our one and only Guest of Honor.” Around the table, when we raised up our hands toward heaven and I recited a thanksgiving prayer, tears pooled in my eyes. The goodness and faithfulness of the Lord in our life are so very precious to us. And we invited Him to our table to partake in the joyous celebration.

What does your “gathering table” look like? What is its story? Its history? If it could talk, what would it tell?

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Journey with Jesus,

Overcomer

My breakfast tray was placed before me but instead of presenting it with a cheerful “Good morning! Enjoy your breakfast!” as I would have loved, it was accompanied by heavy-handed remarks that plunged my heart and spirits to the floor all at once. If it’s a person close to you who does that, it’s really hard to recover from the hurt and discouragement it brings. That kind of discouragement which holds your heart like a vise grip. When your life is hard physically, you don’t need any more emotional challenges that try to snuff out what little hope you hold onto. You just want kindness and encouragement given intentionally or even sacrificially. You want compassion.

Overcomer

But then, other people have their own issues to work on, too, even if they are able-bodied. One has to consider that. They may have their own problematic attitudes and temper to deal with.  (And even if they don’t see the problem, changing people is not our job. It’s God’s. We have to leave it to Him). In my years of illness and suffering, I have learned to see outside of my situation and try to understand other people even though they are not walking the same difficult path as I am.

The wounds, my heart can absorb and forgive, and overtime, will heal and be forgotten, like a mist lifted off of the surface of the lake, making everything clear and shimmering once again. But the momentary discouragement is another thing. Although it is often momentary, it can still shake our hard-earned peace. When you’re ill, you need all the hope and encouragement you can get. But if it’s the opposite that’s thrown at you, that’s when you need to — overcome.

I stared at my breakfast tray, too sad and frustrated to make any move. Actually, it was already late for breakfast. And my breathing becomes labored and gets more difficult the longer I delay eating. But when you’re discouraged, you want to punish yourself all the more, maybe to elicit pity or stir up guilt feelings in the other person. I couldn’t eat. Didn’t want to eat. Self-pity, anger, frustration were all rising up within me. I hate being pitiful. I hate being weak and needy. I hate being miserable. But that’s what discouragement does.

Thank God the Holy Spirit within us doesn’t sleep. He’s alive! He clears up our muddled mind and emotions and speaks truth to us. Wisdom speaks: For whoever finds me finds life, And obtains favor from the Lord” (Prov. 8:35). And rebukes: “If you don’t eat, who will suffer? Does your not eating solve your problems and put into right all the wrongs?”

“Yes, I know. This wisdom is not from above and I’m being foolish,” I answered in my mind. Then I let James 3:17 land softly and settle there. I took a long, deep, cleansing breath, and as I exhaled, I released these words, squaring my shoulders: “JUST. OVERCOME.” I picked up my fork and began to eat, a smile curving my lips.

With the Holy Spirit and wisdom gained from the Word, we can command ourselves, “JUST OVERCOME”. And just like that, we are strengthened. With these two, the apostle Paul’s admonition to “overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21) can squeeze itself through our confused minds and hurting hearts and we will be able to do the right thing. There’s no use analyzing the other person’s abrasive attitude or insensitivity. It’s not our problem; don’t dwell on it for so long. We’ll just have to step up our prayers for that person in our life.

But it’s not only discouragements that we need to overcome. There are other, maybe harder, things that life throws at us which need our overcoming. It’s either we overcome or accept defeat. It’s do or die. Sometimes I imagine my life like a medieval race where there are almost impossible obstacles, like a giant swinging pendulum that you need to assess its frequency to be able to pass through it without it hitting you, for if it does, you will fall into a pit of waiting, hungry crocodiles.

Didn’t the writer of Hebrews say that our faith journey is a race?

… let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us… (Heb. 12:1)

Running the race in such a way that we obtain the prize (1 Cor. 9:24) takes great courage, discipline, patience, and perseverance.

In the earlier years after my salvation, I saw how there were so many hard things I needed to overcome: my sickness and suffering, the anxieties and fears it brought, and the constant threat of hopelessness. But after reading and meditating on the first few chapters of the Book of Revelation where the Lord tells us “To him who overcomes” seven times, I understood that I had to be an overcomer. I reasoned that if there was nothing for me to overcome, how could I be called an overcomer? So, I learned to be grateful for trials. For when God sees fit to train me in this regard, then I will have to yield myself to the learning process.

Thank God we don’t overcome on our own. We can’t possibly do that even if we tried. The years when I was outside of the Lord’s presence and protection, I had let all kinds of temptations enslave me. I didn’t have the spiritual strength to stand up against them. Yielding to temptation was easier than overcoming it. But those years are gone. Even so, our life with the Savior is not without tests and temptations. And I believe they have actually intensified when we aligned our lives with God, because we have set ourselves against His arch-enemy. When we wrestle with our thoughts and emotions, we are actually wrestling with the devil’s strongholds. Pride, fears, anger, envy, and all other human emotions that draw us away from God are his territory.

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. (2 Cor. 10:3-5)

What do you need to overcome in your life right now? Temptations in all its tricky disguises? For in essence, it’s really all a kind of temptation. It all began in the Garden of Eden. The tempter put out his temptation and got Eve’s attention. Eve failed to overcome it; Adam failed to overcome Eve. Because of their failure to overcome, sin entered the world. Satan became its god (2 Cor. 4:4). But that wasn’t the end. The Lord Jesus came and has overcome the world (John 16:33).

On our own, we can never overcome the world and all its tribulations. But because Jesus has overcome it, we can, too. Our victory is in Him. Whoever is not in Christ can be the devil’s puppet. He or she will never have enough power to stand up against him and overcome his works. But those who are in Christ are given these powerful weapons to overcome their accuser:

And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. (Rev. 12:11)

I thought about that last part – “they loved not their lives unto the death” – long and hard and came to realize that most of our defeats and miseries are spawned by our self-love. It’s loving our lives more than loving God. But the Lord has already warned us about it.

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. (Mat. 16:25)

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Journey with Jesus,

A Foothold

One Sunday morning, Hannah comes to me. Her hesitance gives me a hint that there’s something weighing her down. She asks me if she can take the day off from church and just stay home to watch the live webcast. She explains that the previous weeks where they had series of assessments in school had stressed her out and triggered her panic attacks. I agree to her request to rest at home for Sabbath but I probe her deeper about this recurring problem.

a_foothold

She had confided this to me many months back, how she had begun to experience a kind of nervousness, and that when she Googled her symptoms, she learned she had panic attacks. I can’t be sure if what she experiences are panic attacks. I haven’t seen her act “nervous” except that she would adamantly refuse to do something she had decided not to do, like participating in piano recital last summer and refusing to go up to Youth Choir in Church. She’s already 14, but she’s still in Children’s Choir.

Hannah grew up painfully shy. Too shy that it crippled her to do even the things she would have loved to do, like joining in games in birthday parties. When we went to birthday parties when she was a little girl, she would just watch teary-eyed as other kids won prizes in games. She wanted to get those prizes, too, but she was too paralyzed by fear to make the few steps to the front. In pre-school, she memorized and practiced speeches for special events, but when the day came, she wouldn’t even dare step on the stage, let alone open her mouth to speak. She would clam up and no one could make her perform. This happened not only once or twice and it really broke my heart.

I believe that she inherited that shyness from me. It was the same for me growing up. But when I began attending school, I bravely faced my fears to be able to compete with other kids. And so, I performed in both academics and extra-curricular activities, and I performed well. But for my Hannah, although she was a good student and performed well in exams, she avoided reciting as much as possible all through grade school.

Years passed and tons of prayers lifted up and we saw our Hannah performing at the Meralco Theater for her piano recital. It was nothing short of a miracle! With the Lord’s love and mercy, my girl was finally able to perform in front of a huge crowd. For three consecutive years, she conquered both her fears and the stage. We were so proud of her triumphs.

Also, now that she is in Junior High, she’s learning to be more active and participative in school activities. She has also developed friendships with a handful of her girl classmates and has learned to become social, going out with them every now and then. (But that is after I have peppered her with the details :). I don’t fail to remind her to let her light shine especially when she’s with her friends).

But apparently, she has never really shed off her timidity completely. And now, has it developed into panic attacks?

Having grown up in Church, Hannah is not your regular teenager. She doesn’t follow the ways of the world unlike most of her secular peers. I can see her doing her best to obey the Bible’s teachings. But mothers can never be complacent. I still probed her what her faults might be, why she was having those panic attacks. I had begun to pray for her incessantly the first time she confided in me. I thought they were gone. I sent her emails, discussing verses from the Bible that I hoped would help her. This time, I pointed out some of her shortcomings that she needed to work on.

I reminded her that we had not received the spirit of fear but of love, power, and a sound mind (2 Tim. 1:7). If she coddles those panic attacks, what kind of spirit is dwelling in her heart? I asked her. But even as I said those things, I was well aware of my own situation. I’m not a stranger to fears, nervousness, anxiety and panic attacks. I know I had accumulated them in my system because of my terrifying illness and suffering. As I had mentioned in a previous post, even if you’re a Christian doing your best to live victorious, prolonged suffering could still be traumatic. And so, I know how excruciatingly hard it is to battle fears.

I grieve both for my daughter and myself as we walk this same path, although I always keep a brave and courageous front. I believe that’s what mothers do. And even though I have my own ailing body to think about and now added to that are my daughter’s issues, I feel comforted by the fact that I can heap everything at my Lord Jesus’ feet in prayer. And more unceasing prayers at that! Even so, I won’t be discouraged, for it cannot be that He won’t listen to them.

But let’s go back to the subject as to why Christians suffer. The Bible tells us that the Lord Jesus Christ came to give us abundant life (see John 10:10). But for many of His present-day followers, the opposite is true: they live being robbed of health, strength, courage, peace, joy, and prosperity by the enemy. They are oppressed both by fears and physical suffering. Why, if Apostle Peter has written thus?

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. (2 Pet. 3-4 ESV)

Why do many of us tarry long in the wilderness and can’t seem to arrive at our Promised Lands, that place of abundant life the Lord has promised? There is just one way to that place and we know it’s Him. But we already have Him. We can say that we abide in Him and His Word abides in us. We do our best to obey Him, yes. What else must be done? These and more are questions I still wring my heart hard to try to find answers to.

What aren’t we surrendering?

The first time this question popped up in my mind, tears threatened to rise up my throat as I felt the magnitude of God’s requirements it carried. The question is loaded, like a camel saddled with burdens and clouds pregnant with rainstorm. Yet, it’s important to try to answer it for it will determine how we will live our lives on earth.

What aren’t we surrendering? God wants our all.

The fullness of our love?

Unforgiveness?

Anger?

Bitterness?

Doubts?

Pride of life?

Time?

Comfort?

Secret pleasures?

Worldly desires?

Secular pastimes?

Have we made an idol of our careers? Our pursuits? Our possessions? Our selves?

Where are we disobeying?

Maybe that piece of unsurrender in our hearts is the same space the enemy has taken up. His foothold. And that is what hinders our abundant life? That’s why Apostle Paul warns: Do not give the devil a foothold (Eph. 4:27).

God has given us His precious and very great promise — the Holy Spirit. It is through Him that we can partake of the divine nature. It is through Him that we can escape the corruption of the world because of evil desires. It is Him who empowers us to live godly lives. This then should be our daily goal: To ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Let us prepare our hearts everyday to be His sanctuary.

(Photo credit: Perla Frisberg).

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Journey with Jesus,

The Good Fight of Faith

Finally, after an hour or so of waiting out for good breathing, the suffering began to ebb until everything within me slowly settled into a comfortable rhythm. The calm after the storm. It had been one of those countless “attacks”, more intense than the others. My body succumbed to much-needed rest after the battering but my mind was pulled in different directions. One part wanted to slump in a dark corner and just let discouragement and despair take over. Another smaller part wanted to rise up in anger, to rave and rant against — what? Maybe against the powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. But a louder, more powerful voice rose up from my spirit and shouted silently, passionately, within me: Fight the good fight of faith! The voice shouted it again, silencing all other voices in my mind. And again. Until my whole being felt the victory, the sheer defiance to rise up and fight.

faith

It was another deliverance, both from the battering attack and from yielding to defeat and hopelessness. These small victories, they mean a lot.

After many weeks of dropping it, I picked up the book and opened it again – Possessing Your Healing. There is nothing in the book that speaks contrary to the Scriptures. It teaches powerfully about divine healing through faith, something I continually hear and witness in our own full Gospel, apostolic Church, Jesus Miracle Crusade International Ministry. At first, I strongly affirmed the teachings, promises, and declarations the book instructed. But when my illness didn’t show any signs of letting up and the suffering continued like a deaf demon that comprehended nothing, I lost the fire to fight. I let the devil’s lies sneak into my subconscious mind – these promises don’t work for me! – and just let life be. I was actually offended by it as it magnified the fact that those healing promises were not working fully for me. Hadn’t been these past 12 years.

But I didn’t want to continue down the path of defeat, of letting my faith take a deep sleep while the devil oppresses me. So, I opened the book again, expecting the radical teachings and affirmations to stoke the fire of hope within me to continue to stand and fight the good fight of faith. To fight for my healing. To affirm that I am entitled to it. To believe that as a child of God whom He has a covenant with, I have a right to divine health.

This is one of the passages in the book that resurrected my desire to fight with all the faith I have:

We have already been given everything we need to overcome. We don’t need to wait on God to answer our prayers; He is waiting on us to move in faith and authority, and to place a demand on what He has already accomplished on the cross. Stop behaving like a victim; I repeat, stop behaving like a victim! You are powerful because greater is He that lives in you than he that lives in the world.

One afternoon, I was scheduled to bathe. My husband was on standby as he waited for me to give the go signal. He would assist me wash. Hours passed and I continued to wait for strength and easy breathing. I was getting frustrated. Bathing for healthy people is as effortless as breathing, but for ailing and weak people like me, it is a great challenge. Anger sparked from deep within, a brewing rage that threatened to choke me. I was furious with the enemy of my soul for stealing so much from me. How dare him to incapacitate me  from doing the things I want to do, needed to do!

I shouted my frustrations and anger to the wind, expressing my utter disapproval to the devil, declaring war with him. My husband looked, brows raised. I told him I wanted to hurl things to show I was angry, that I resisted what was being done to me. He didn’t say a word. Maybe he was secretly glad to see there was still a great part of me that wanted to fight fiercely like a wounded lion. Or maybe a wounded dog. I fell silent as I ruminated on my outburst which was not the usual order of things. Healthy anger is good (or maybe holy anger?). Fight is good. I assured myself of these things.

Yes, I need not silently yield to suffering, like a cowering child in a dark corner being continually abused and battered by a monstrous adult. No, ma’am. I am a child of God and must always remember to stand and fight the good fight of faith. I must refuse to be oppressed. I must refuse to be defeated by the devil who has already been defeated by my Savior. Who has already been crushed by Him. And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under [our] feet shortly. I remember the book’s counsel: I must stop behaving like a victim.

And yet, we often behave that way, don’t we? Mostly unconsciously. We don’t always have the energy, either physically or spiritually, to fight like Joshua, boldly charging in battle. In those times, it is a good thing to find ourselves at the Lord’s feet, not to blame, contend, or accept defeat, but to refuel. To be refilled by His Holy Spirit who gives us power, wisdom, and boldness.

To be discouraged to the point of despair is always a threat to the sick and suffering. I, for one, have repeatedly encountered the fear of living after healing. I desire greatly to be healed, but when I think about life on the other side of sickness and suffering, the healed life, I feel trepidation. After being ill for so long and having experienced countless horrifying “attacks”, I feel like I don’t know how to live otherwise. It’s a great irony. But even when one has been a Christ follower for many years, prolonged and intense sickness and suffering could still be traumatic.

But faith does’t and mustn’t end there. Just as there are windows of fear like what I described above, there are also windows through which we are gloriously empowered to cast out all fears, to face the future with a brave and courageous heart, like nothing can scare us or push us back. In Jesus’ name, shut those windows of fear and open wide the windows of indestructible faith and stay connected with it. Apostle Paul says it best:

…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. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Eph. 6:10-11, 13-17)

Embrace life! Fight for the abundant life the Lord Jesus came to give – that is His will for us. Don’t give the devil a foothold; don’t let him drive us to defeat! Dear one, don’t be a grasshopper in your own eyes! God is not glorified when we think of ourselves that way – we are His children. Be courageous; believe God. Be a Joshua and a Caleb and the Lord will always be with us: going before us, fighting alongside us, giving us victory!

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Journey with Jesus,

Live Healed

Slowly, week after week, the Holy Spirit has been guiding me to examine my life deeply and wisely in this season of another “long wait” for healing. He is giving me fresh vision and I’m beginning to really see things from an entirely different perspective. It is so easy to be blinded or tricked into not seeing the things the Lord is showing us, especially when our hearts and minds are full of our own plans that make us giddy. Even in blogging, I used to go right ahead and write whatever I had purposed in my mind, not waiting for the Lord’s voice. There is a big difference now. Since I can’t waste any energy I have, I only write upon the Holy Spirit’s leading and inspiration. It is very freeing.

I have been waiting for my healing for almost 12 years now. I have done everything I have been taught by the Word, at Church through preaching and countless testimonies, and by Christian books on divine healing. I know I have faith to be healed – steadfast, enduring, persevering faith. But still, I wait. And suffer. Healing has not come fully, but rather in painfully slow, small trickles, like a very viscous liquid that refuses to flow easily. And then the illness would intensify, making me lose any new grounds I had gained.

Just very recently, I started to devise a new scheme to try to beat my sickness and suffering: I will live as if I am already healed. As long as You continue to give me life, Lord, I will desire, I will devise, I will strive, I will fight to get well. It is Your will to heal. My healing comes with my salvation. You’ve already won it at the cross. And by Your stripes, I am healed. I whisper silently these things against my pillow. I affirm them.

To walk in divine health by faith as if healing has come, though in reality, it hasn’t yet – there is a need for a continuous cleansing – a daily, moment by moment awareness of what’s happening in the heart or playing on in the mind. It is as if the Holy Spirit is whispering to me: cleansing is healing. Not the complete forgiveness and cleansing of all our sins that we receive when we repent, receive the Lord Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, and are baptized in water in His name. But of how we respond to life’s trials, especially the lingering ones. I had poured out my heart about this lengthily. Or, as the Holy Spirit is slowly opening my eyes to: Maybe it all really goes back to the day of salvation when we received new life, to Paul’s exhortation that we should walk in newness of life. Which we might have been doing, but not completely, like being submerged wholly into the Waters of Life, filling up every void in us.

The walking in newness of life must continue and deepen, even as the years roll by and all kinds of trials – persecutions, afflictions, suffering – are flung our way. These trials are seen as purifying, sanctifying. We know that. But despite of this knowledge, some of us still respond in our natural, human instincts, resorting to feelings of jealousy, envy, self-pity, resentment, bitterness (and maybe in that progressive order). For years I had believed that I was entitled to feel them or harbor them given my difficult circumstances. No one is stopping us to feel them. But you know what? I had found out, long time ago, that they wouldn’t help. They are futile, fruitless, vain (a string of synonyms but hey, I want to emphasize it well :) ),  just as complaining won’t bring any good but God’s displeasure. But still, in our weakest moments, we succumb to them.

On the contrary, these strong negative emotions carry a powerful energy of their own which can sap our very life! They can even cause a whole new range of sicknesses – physical and psychological – not to mention their instant effect which is heaviness of spirit – plain misery! I call it gross oppression. But this is not the life the Lord had come to earth to give.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10)

I had memorized this by heart. I had begged the Lord, even to this day, to give me this abundant life. And by that I mean my full healing and recovery and all the blessings that will follow. But now, the Holy Spirit is teaching me that even in the thick of it all, I don’t have to let myself be oppressed also by negative feelings. There is a better way and that is in not abiding in them.

…let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. (Heb. 12:1, emphasis mine)

This weight, this sin, isn’t necessarily of the Ten Commandments-breach magnitude, but those subtle, hardly perceptible ones that have the habit of creeping into our system without us being even aware of:

doubting God’s love
spurning His judgments by comparing our lives with others
being silently jealous, envious, covetous, and resentful of others’ lives and blessings
responding in bitterness, impatience, unkindness
becoming doubtful, unbelieving, cynical about God and His Word, and maybe a little rebellious deep in the heart
judgmental, critical thoughts
being unkind to oneself
responding in and operating on fear rather than faith
entertaining unfounded guilt and self-accusations and condemnations (the devil’s oppressive lies)
going back to the past and letting all its guilt (that has been completely forgiven) perturb you
constantly abiding in worries, anxieties
making sadness and heaviness as default feelings and responses 

Whew! That is quite a list. When we see any of these things coming, their shadow or their offensive odor that precedes them, even before they settle in our heart – be aware! Block them. Stop their progress. Cast them out in Jesus’ name. Don’t even let them touch a millimeter of our mind, defiling it. Let’s turn our backs on them for good. Cleanse ourselves of them. Beg God to help us. Let the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:7). We are a new creation: chosen, holy, God’s own possession. Live like it.

Live within the bounds of the abundant fruits of the Holy Spirit –  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

I believe this is another way to heal and be whole.

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