The feeling of being homeless…

My husband and I have been renting apartments since we got married. Where we live, it is not easy to own a home. The insecurity of being driven out of a place and being homeless has been with me ever since.

Just two weeks ago, we were informed that the apartment we are renting has already been sold and that we need to move out within 2 to 3 weeks. We were stunned and felt very betrayed. Looking for a relatively decent place to move into on a very small budget that allows pets is very difficult. We had to adjust our schedules so we could look at several places to rent at such short notice.

Without the money to advance to landlords (at least 3 months’ worth), we could just look at places but not reserve. We have been to most cities that are not too far from where my husband works and have seen really depressing places. We have been on a rollercoaster of emotions the past two weeks.

The reality that we will be homeless within a few weeks hit us really hard. Without the financial means to rent a place in such a short time drove us deep into depression. I have always been irate at the government for driving illegal settlers away without any relocation plans for them. It is cruel and inhumane. Every human being has the right to a decent place to live. Our society has blatantly ignored this basic right for decades. We are all answerable for this intolerable cruelty.

I know people who also almost lost their homes – and those who actually did. It is downright wrong.

I applaud people who establish shelters for the homeless. There should be more of them and more facilities for the homeless. No one should ever be deprived of this basic human right.

Now I personally know how it feels. I pray to God that we will be given the means to help others in this plight.

Worship no matter what…

It’s another new year. I am very grateful for the physical, emotional and mental rest I am enjoying with my family for a few weeks. The past year has been pain-filled; losing many loved ones, grappling with God and his promises, struggling to keep my head above raging waters, and simply striving to survive.

God’s many promises seemed irrelevant to me and my situation. They were outdated and were definitely objective reality as far as I was concerned. I witnessed injustice, suffering, severe pain and loss among my family, friends and countrymen. God’s mercy and deliverance seemed very far away.

After more than a year of leaving my Bible on a shelf to gather dust, I fearfully picked it up and leafed through the still crisp pages. It was an emotional experience. I know in my heart that Jesus never left me, but I stopped believing in his word — at least those that promise deliverance, provision and help to the widows, orphans and fatherless.

I did not go to my “favorite”‘ books. I simply skimmed through and decided to read Habakkuk. This was not a book I often read so I was stunned to read “myself” and my situation so accurately described by the author. I cried his cry for many months: “How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you , “Violence!” but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong?” – Habakkuk 1: 2-3 (NIV throughout)

Did I receive the answers I wanted to hear? I guess not. I was utterly despondent and wondered if God would ever forgive me for dwelling in negativity and misery for so long. In his unfailing love and mercy, he whispered these words to me.

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.” – Habakkuk 3: 17-19

He is healing me enough to begin praising him – “….to choose to trust God and declare that his character is perfect – even when we don’t understand and our hearts are breaking.” – Insight on Worship, CGSB, NIV

My heart is still breaking. My husband and I just lost another beloved pet only one week ago. By God’s strength, I choose to be hopeful and to continue to live my life with all my heart and might because life is just too short to remain in pain, anguish and grief. We have a mighty and loving God who continues to save and heal us. And he continues to save and heal me, one small step at a time.

My Experience at an Adoption Home

My husband and I just came from volunteering at a local shelter for abandoned and abused children. Appropriately called CRIBS (Creating Responsive Infants By Sharing), it opens its gates to people who wish to give an hour or two of their time, in the morning and in the afternoon, caring for and interacting with babies and toddlers.

Since it was our first time to volunteer, we didn’t quite know what to expect. After changing into our clean and white “work clothes”, we entered the babies’ and toddlers’ sections and were immediately and eagerly greeted by the tots. I hardly had time to see where my husband went because the child that greeted me at the door of the nursery held up his hands to be carried.

I was overwhelmed. So there I was, wondering how I could help when I didn’t have children of my own and nervous as to what was expected of me. It didn’t take me too long to figure it out. I just needed to give them love.

There were many volunteers but there were also more babies than everyone can handle. I was in the room that housed eight babies ranging in age from four months to perhaps one year. Each one wanted to be carried, comforted and put to sleep. After playing with two of them, I carried a crying little boy with almond eyes and a cute round head. He was crying  and rolling from side to side in one corner of the play mat that I had to attend to him immediately. All volunteer hands and arms were full so I rushed to him after putting down the little boy that first greeted me.

It took me just two seconds to lift him up and he immediately stopped crying. The distress was lifted from his tiny face and he seemed content to just be held. My heart just melted. I needed no special mothering skills or years of child-rearing experience to calm a crying baby. I was humbled and I offered prayers to God for those babies whose parents didn’t want them anymore.

I put no blame on their parents. I don’t know their stories and I’m not their judge. I can only pray for more people whose hearts will be touched to volunteer their time and love to these children. This is not the only shelter in our country. There are many more that need not only volunteers but donors so that these homes and shelters will continue to be in existence and will be able to take care of more children. You can look them up on the internet, check out their wish lists, and give them a call.

There is also a need for more caring people to adopt these children and give them a more permanent home. Each child needs special and constant attention, which adoption shelters cannot provide 24/7. There are costs to be counted, the most crucial of which, I believe, is commitment.

My husband and I are seriously considering adoption and we are doing our research, on our knees. If we could give a home to just one child, then that’s one child less at a shelter. That’s one more child assured of love and a better future. We don’t have all the resources just yet, but by God’s grace, we can work those out.

We pray for that baby He has already matched and prepared for us. And as we wait, I am always reminded of our own precious adoption by God the Father, through Jesus Christ.   “5He (A)predestined us to (B)adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, (C)according to the kind intention of His will” – Ephesians 1:5 (NASB).

I was never alone…

Southern Luzon Medical Center

It has been a week today since my first ever surgery. I had a laparoscopy cholecystectomy done last March 24 to remove my gall bladder because of the many stones that resided in it and caused me many hours of pain. Many may say it’s a very common procedure for a minor organ and that I’m making too much of a deal of it. Like I told my hubby, it’s still my bladder and it’s still my body. There is nothing common about it. I only have one of each!

I had about a week to prepare myself physically, mentally and emotionally. I thought I was doing pretty well in that I was still able to function around the house and do my baking and deliveries. Well, not really. I did break down the day after my surgeon told me that I had to go through the surgery. I was tearing apart at the seams as my fears surfaced and almost engulfed me. I was losing my bladder! It’s major!

Many friends and family members sent their support and prayers through text messages and e-mail. I read and re-read my Facebook messages and thanked God for His love expressed in tangible ways. These were the messages I reviewed in my mind when I was wheeled to the operating room. And as I was laid down on the bed with the many green and blue-masked figures hovering around me, the bright OR lights reminding me of the many ER episodes I’ve seen, I listened calmly to the soft buzz and beeps of the various machines I was hooked up to. I thought I was calm until one of the nurses read my blood pressure to me: 120/90. That’s high! I’m cool with my normal 110/70.

I realized then that the surgery may be postponed if my BP didn’t cooperate. That was when I suddenly felt Christ’s comforting presence in me. I thanked him for the treatment I was about to receive and silently prayed for my anesthesiologist, surgeon and nurses. And then I blacked out.

I woke up to the voice of my able anesthesiologist and my sweet hubby. Since I was just beginning to regain my consciousness, I could only manage a “thumbs up”, with my heavy eyes and parched mouth still shut. I also realized that I survived the surgery and that I was never alone. Jesus was with me the whole time.

I look back now and still fight back the tears whenever I remember that special moment before I lost consciousness. That was the moment when I felt so much fear yet so much peace and comfort afterwards. I am also filled with gratitude for the love and support of our church family who visited me in the hospital and stayed to care for me. That was love in action. I will never forget that. And to my hubby, a big kiss and hug for his loving care and sacrifice.

I was never alone. I know that now.

When Compassion is Sadly Lacking

The Christmas season is fast approaching. For many families here in the Philippines, it will be a season of sadness and grieving, of homelessness and even hopelessness. The Christmas carols and blinking lights will be cruel reminders of loved ones lost and bleak futures. The typhoons that ravaged the country one strong fury after another will cast a dark shadow over the holiday celebrations. In these times of darkness and pain, the gift of compassion is greatly needed.

Sadly, there is a dearth of compassion in this world, even among so-called “Christians“.  It is highly encouraging to witness through the news funds being raised and food being distributed among the typhoon victims week after week. The heroism of a people is usually seen in tragedies of epic scales. But among the ordinary folks eking their way into existence every single day, a brief encounter with compassion is an oasis to a thirsty and war-weary soul. Yes, an oasis in the desert — hard to find, seldom seen, and a flitting mirage at best — but very much needed.

Compassion —  the deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the active desire to alleviate it — is something every hurting soul needs right now. Let us give it. Let us throw away useless platitudes, judgment, self-righteousness and even a messianic complex. Let us just feel with the hurting — no words, just feelings and loving gestures. Maybe a hug, a sincere pat on the shoulder, an understanding and kind glance. This is compassion. A soft and gentle voice mouthing judgment is not the same thing.

We call ourselves “Christians” — let us live in the way Jesus Christ lived. He is compassionate (Exodus 34:6 – “…The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.”). If we want to know how else we can sincerely express compassion, we can look to Jesus’ examples in his word (you can check out BibleGateway.com). After all, he is our best example.

Faith never makes sense…

In a few hours, hubby and I will be flying off to the US. While it is an exciting trip not just for us, but for four more friends who will be traveling with us, it is a trip that involves a lot of faith.

We are all going to the US as a church planting team. We will be attending a church planting conference and attending a series of meetings that will help equip us a church planters.

Faith is defined in the Bible as such: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.” – Hebrews 11:1

Many will wonder why we are making this trip. There are many unknowns in a country that is currently going through a recession. As a team and as couples, we incurred a lot of expenses just to go through with this trip. But contrary to what most people will think, we are not going on a whim. We are going by faith.

Faith is probably one of the hardest truths to explain. It is a strong and deep conviction that happens inside our hearts that compels us to action and obedience to God, often times without regard for the possible consequences. And the only reason for this deliberate disregard of the possible consequences is faith in a God who will take care of these same “consequences”.

When God calls us to step out in faith, we do so with eyes wide open and focused on him alone. Once we look around at our situation and circumstances, we will falter and stumble in our walk just like Peter did when he took his eyes off Jesus and began to sink in the water (Matthew 14:30).

"Follow Me" by Spencer Williams

"Follow Me" by Spencer Williams

Did it make sense for Peter to walk on water when Jesus asked him to in Matthew 14: 28-30?

“28‘Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’

29‘Come,’ he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!'”

Just like Peter, our team prayed together and asked Jesus to reveal his calling to us to plant churches. He did and affirmed his call to each of us. In faith, we all believe that God convicted us to go and attend the conference and do the rest of the work he wants us to do for a month  in the US regardless of our present financial and other situations. And if we do sink, Jesus will always save us, just as he did Peter.

“31Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’ – Matthew 14:31

Does it make sense? No, it doesn’t. But is it what God is telling us to do? Yes, we believe it is. My husband called it “being foolish for God.” Will he take care of all our worries and anxieties about this trip? Yes, he will — if we surrender them all to him. He promised his blessed peace in Philippians 4: 6-7;

“6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Will he provide for all our needs? Yes, he will, and more.

No, we don’t have all the evidences to show people because God is revealing himself and his promises to us one step at a time. We are on a journey of faith and all will be revealed in God’s good time. And as we walk with him, we will declare his praises wherever he takes us.

Basking In His Glory

My husband and I have three dogs. The eldest is a female mixed breed name Toepy, the middle is a black male Labrador Retriever named Beans, and the youngest is a female Miniature Pinscher named Peanut. All three of them are a joy to have but they can also be more than a handful on many occasions.

ToepyToepy, being the longest with us (she’s around seven years old), is the most attached. She follows me around wherever I go, even when I just walk around in our small house. When I stop walking, she stops; when I turn, so does she; when I sit on our couch, she lies down right at my feet. And whenever I am within her eye sight, she stares at me – and she can go on staring at me for a full minute without blinking. While to many this may be wonderful, to me it can get downright irritating and unnerving.

BeansI do not relish being followed around or stared at, by a person or an animal. Many times I need to remind myself that our dog is not human and is just being a loyal dog. And when I am in a very tolerant mood, I look back at ole’ Toepy and just marvel at how she literally basks in my “glory”. She doesn’t seem to get enough of me, even when I get mad at her. And if she was given a chance, she would probably ride on my back all day and night just so she’ll never be far from me. This does seem very stalker-like, but then she’s just a dog!

PeanutBeans and Peanut are not this way with us at all. They do have their moments when they want to be with us, but they are not nearly as clingy as Toepy. And since there is really nothing I can do to lessen Toepy’s adoration of me, I decided to just look at the situation from a different perspective.

Do I bask enough in my Lord’s glory? I envy Toepy sometimes for her unconditional love and adoration. How I wish I could also adore Jesus and just be genuinely content. Can I be genuinely content just being with my Lord? Or do I make myself so busy that I hardly have the time or the motivation to  just bask?

It’s high time that I learn to really “live” — not to strive in a frenzied manner the way other people do every single day.  It’s time that I remind myself again that true success is not about how much money I earn or how many activities I can cram into one day.  I need to really believe that “living” is all about just that – having a life;  a life lived on purpose; a life lived like I really mean it. It is a life wholly surrendered to a higher being — in my case, my Lord and Savior,  Jesus Christ.

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