Sunday, July 31, 2011

The God Who Sees

You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
Psalm 139:2

In just two days, we’ll be moving into the house that we’re renting for the duration of our stay here. I remember our landlord writing us when we were still in Chiang Mai. She said, “All you have to do is arrive at the house with your bags. You can unpack your suitcases and you’ll be set up. You can use the towels, sheets, and everything else!” With that in mind, I looked around our place today and noted the pieces of luggage in the different parts of our apartment. Well, she was right! We are indeed moving to her house with our luggage but also with LOADS more of other stuff! We didn’t anticipate nor even hope it but the Lord had seen it fit to bless us abundantly. Right now, our living room and hallway literally have stuffed bags, full boxes, and even a complicated gerbil cage (with two gerbils!) waiting to be transported to our new place. We also visited with a friend today to celebrate her birthday with her but we were the ones that left her place with several bags and containers full of stuff that she gave us! Consequently, our van is now filled to the brim with items from her. In both instances, our friends were given things that they didn’t need but they thought of us so they passed on the stuff to us. The one family had items that they no longer needed nor wanted (like the gerbils). It is amazing how the Lord provides and knows what is useful for us. We don’t even know half of what are in the bags that we got today. Somehow, I have a sense that we’ll probably need those things someday. The Lord’s just already provided them ahead of time. Along with many other things, Ethan now have new toys and pets, Eric and Eli have ice skates and clothes, Eng has shoes, Evan has a brand new rice cooker and a non-stick pan, and Linda now has a cell phone that even has money in it! It shouldn’t surprise that the Lord knows our needs before we even think it but it is mind boggling how He sets it all up! Last week, another friend offered to help us move on Monday and we accepted her offer out of wanting to make our move easier (and more fun!). Now that we’ve got an overflow of things, her and her husband’s help will truly be much needed, a real Godsend!

Ethan while excitedly building his just received LEGO set.
Also last week, we talked about not having a rice cooker to cook our rice on. Just a few days later, our neighbor gave us a brand new rice cooker! How did God do that? Today, on the way to our friend’s house, Evan talked to his brothers about wanting to see a movie together. Just a few minutes after our arrival at her place, they all received movie coupons from her! It’s unexplainable how Papa God does it! He sees, He knows, He hears, He impresses, He does, He orchestrates, He gives, and He probably chuckles at our reactions when we are amazed and awed out of our wits when we understand what He’s done. Thank you, Lord, for your kindness and goodness in providing even when we don’t ask you. You are such a good God! There is no one like you. We love you.

Added Later: Today at church, the Lord reminded me of how He sees us just like He did Hagar and Ishmael in Genesis 21:8-19. I met a social worker last Friday while looking for a caregiver for my mother and after talking, we prayed. While praying, she started to cry, later remarking that the Lord heard the prayers she said on her own and used our prayer time to speak into it. As she heard what the Lord will do, she couldn't help but be touched. Every time we pray, the Lord sees, hears, and does.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Gift of Kisses

My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord.
Let every creature praise His Holy Name forever and ever.
Psalm 145:21

Tomorrow, we would have been back here for three weeks. Time has flown. We’ve gone to different shopping places several times to shop for toiletries, groceries, and other stuff we needed to feel at home. We’ve been attending one supporting church that’s close to where we live. But most of all, we’ve been to my parent’s house to spend time with them.

Sadly, my mother, who has Alzheimer’s, has progressed in her illness since I saw her last year. While before she sometimes strung together random words when she spoke, now she does it almost all the time. Words come out of her mouth, mostly in Filipino, but they do not form a thought. Consequently, as listeners, we’d end up confused. She’d be talking to us in a normal conversational tone but we’d be guessing as to what she means and trying to come up with our own random answers. Sometimes, she looks like she understands us. Other times, she looks just as confused as we are.

She’s forgotten who I am and that I’m her daughter so there is no reason to relate with me. As a way to connect with her and to distract her, I’d play the piano. While I do, she sings or hums the words to the songs while her head sways to the beat, or she would sometimes dance to the melody. She also gets irritated if I misplay the song. =) At the very least, she would tap her foot in time with the beat. I look for that as my sign to keep playing. If she’s preoccupied with the music, she’s not scolding my father (which she sometimes does), nor sleeping (which she always does). It’s good for her mind to engage in something.

It’s been so HOT this week so I barbequed some meat on the grill instead of cooking inside their house when I visited them. It was close to 40 degrees so I was soaked in sweat. Not only was I wet, I could also smell the BBQ’s smoke on me. Ethan tried to hug me but quickly recoiled when he felt me (or smelled me?). I could perfectly understand him because I didn’t want to hug nor kiss myself either! It’s smelling like I did which makes me wonder all the more why I got the kisses I received from my mother that night. As I said “goodnight”, I offered to put powder on her face. (In the past, she loved using Johnson’s Baby Powder.) She allowed me to apply the powder on her left cheek with my fingers and then later told me to put some on the right cheek also. Soon; she was holding my hand and using my fingers to spread the then imaginary powder all over her face. She still liked the powder’s smell and I think it soothed her. I kissed her cheek then she asked me to kiss her other cheek, too. I thought maybe she’d change her mind as Ethan did once he caught a whiff of me but not only did she receive my kiss, she then kissed me on the one side of my forehead, then the other side and then she kissed my nose. Finally, she kissed
my chin and smiled at me. I was so taken aback by her gesture that I thanked her because it really touched me and I was so GRATEFUL. I know it may not sound like much but back when my mother wasn’t ill, she used to just sniff me, instead of kiss me. In one of her rare lucid moments, she actually, truly, kissed me (not once, but four times!). It was such a blessing.

My mother reminded me of our God. In our ugliness and stinky, dirty state because of our sins, He still takes us and incomprehensibly loves us and lavishes us with His kisses. What a God He is, the maker of the universe, lowering Himself to our level just so we could feel His love. Thank you, Papa God. =)

I will bless the Lord at all times...
Psalm 34:1

Sunday, July 17, 2011

New Provisions

Yesterday, 15 year old Eli thanked God for where we’re currently living. In his prayer, he said it was comfortable and nice to be here. I’d have to agree. The Lord has been too kind. It was also right after our National Director (who happened to live below us), without our asking, installed an air conditioning unit on one of the windows in the living room area. If there was one thing to complain about, the heat might have been it, but that was quickly rectified by the gesture and service. Because it was him who did it, it all the more brought home the message of not just a giving, but a serving God (like Jesus). Thank you, Papa God. We are in a two-bedroom, long and spacious apartment. Both Evan (on a mattress) and Eli (on the couch) sleep in the living room but neither seems to mind it. We are grateful and content. There are times when the bathroom (there’s only one) literally has a line up from any few of us six but we have kept the tempers down and are living in harmony.

This brings me to the next provision which is a place to go to for an extended time of prayer. I was able to get away for my usual time of quiet once a month and ended up doing it next door, the actual OMF Guest House. It’s a big, beautiful house with nine rooms that people can stay in. The rooms; instead of numbers, are assigned the following names: Trust, Love, Joy, Peace, Harmony, Praise, Hope, Serendipity, and Tranquility. There have been many times coming back to Toronto where I’d find myself disturbed by the sirens wailing in the city. It’s one of the things I adjust to since we hardly ever hear sirens (from fire trucks, ambulances, or police cars) in Chiang Mai. Here, not two days would go by without hearing it at least once. Sometimes, upwards to three can be heard in a single day! In the past, for the first few days, sirens would jar my peace. In the Mission Home and here, there is such a peace that blocks out all the outside noises. Yes, the noises (and sirens!) are there but like a cloak, I remain unperturbed because of the peace that shrouds me. I stayed there to pray and it felt just right. The cost for OMF members to stay is $8.75 per day with breakfast so it is VERY affordable. It also had a piano which I was able to play, making the place perfect for me. I initially asked to stay in the Trust room as I thought it was where I spiritually needed to be. I was assigned to the Harmony room instead and as I prayed, I sensed that it was what the Lord was going to do in our family. Harmony somehow eluded us several times in Chiang Mai but it’s a gift the Lord is giving us this season. Yes, Lord!

Lastly, I’d like to write about the 2003 Pontiac Montana van that the Lord provided us with. We’ve been able to drive it around for a week now and it is surely fitting our needs. Our sons had claimed their seats and are in process of finding out how to use the DVD player. It has automatic sliding side doors, power windows and locks, and with the push of some switches can move the driver’s seat up, down, forward or back. It is super cool for the price of $3,250.00. The Lord is good and greatly to be praised. I’m sure I’ll have much to write about in the days to come. =)

Sunday, July 10, 2011


Even in laughter the heart may ache…
Proverbs 14:13a

My family and I arrived here in Toronto last Sunday. I should probably feel great about being home but that’s not how I feel. I’ve actually been blessed to come here for a few weeks every year for the last three years. That was intentional so I could help take care of my mother who has Alzheimer’s and visit her, Evan, and my father. After each of those visits here, I’d returned to Chiang Mai, where “home” was. Being here this time is different because we’ll live here on Home Assignment for one year. Another family now lives in the house we rent in Chiang Mai. We are supposed to be “home” now. Somehow, it just doesn’t feel like it yet. I actually feel lost and disoriented.

Maybe it’s just because of how we spent the first few moments since arriving. Instead of a sibling, we were greeted at the airport by friends who used to live in Chiang Mai. Then we immediately joined the rest of the Home Assignees for supper. Two of the assignees were co-workers in Chiang Mai too (!), and a third one visited me there. Maybe that’s why it’s felt so extra strange. Four friends that we used to work with in Chiang Mai are here with us but we’re in a different place, we’re not in our usual context. Since arriving that night, we’ve been attending meetings pertaining to being back in Canada from morning until around 9 p.m. Our sessions end today, Friday, at noon. Thankfully, Evan was able to join us for that Sunday night’s meal. It was good to see him and the rest of our sons catching up with him. Ethan was literally all over him. We had to ask Ethan to get off Evan as Ethan was sitting on his shoulders while they were watching TV! =)

Maybe being “home” feels strange because we had no money until Eng got some yesterday. We tried to use our bank card but none of the passwords we used worked. Only later did I realize that we used an old card and not the current correct one.

Maybe it’s strange because we’re staying at a guest house instead of at my parents where I normally would be as soon as I get here. For various reasons, it’s not feeling quite right.

For the month of July, we are staying on the second floor of this building, at the apartment on the left (the one with the open window).

They say, “Home is where the heart is.” I guess the bottom line is, my body is here but my heart has yet to join me. I noticed that during times of interaction this week, I wasn’t quite ready to engage with people yet. I’m not ready to make new friends. Perhaps after I properly grieve the ones I lost in Chiang Mai, I’ll be more intentional.

We also still don’t know how our days will look so everything about being here has the strange feel to it. After all the meetings this week, what then? Our sons need to be registered at their schools. I need to upgrade my educational requirement so I can keep teaching ESL in Chiang Mai. Eng wants to learn Mandarin and most importantly, we have to meet with our supporters and share about our work in Chiang Mai. We should also mobilize and encourage others to be involved in missions.

In our session this morning, we were asked, “Will you endure your time here until you truly go home? Are you feeling a sense of truly belonging elsewhere? Is there an ache to come home?”

I’d have to answer with, “No, I won’t endure my time here. I aim to thrive in it with God’s help. No, I honestly don’t feel like I belong in Chiang Mai even though that’s where home’s been for the last seven years. I was back in the Philippines in April this year but I didn’t feel like belonging there either. The term “nowhereian” suits me just fine but I do feel the ache to come home.”

We sang a song with the line “Come and fill your lambs” so I asked God to fill me. Next thing I knew, I was crying. Yes, it’s the infilling and the presence of Papa God that soothes and relieves the ache to come home. Heaven, where I will always be with God, is home. Thankfully, some day, I’ll be there.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Double Delight

Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good;
sing praise to His name, for that is pleasant.
Psalm 135:3

We’ve got a day to spend with my high school friend who lives in Sunbury on Thames outside of London and then tomorrow we’ll board our plane to go back to Canada. She offered to take us to Windsor Castle or visit Hampton Court after a buffet meal. Then we’ll have BBQ at their place for supper. It sounds like another wonderful day. It shouldn’t surprise us that God will bless us just as much. He’s been so faithful to do so for the last two weeks that we’ve been travelling in Europe.

God is undeniably too good. Following our trip to Rome, Italy, the Vatican City, and Paris, France, we made our way to Eibergen, Holland. We stayed there for four days and enjoyed our time. Our host, another high school friend, and her family, went out of their way to make our stay very pleasant. Even their friends were very kind to us. As if to punctuate a point, the Lord audibly told us what He was doing. When our friends took us to see an old church on Zwillbrock near the German border, we entered it. The choir must have been practising for the next day’s service. They sang “Amazing Grace” as we walked in and followed it a few songs later with “Great is Thy Faithfulness”. Yes, what an amazing God you are, Papa, so faithful.

We took a walk in the German woods and coupled with the Dutch countryside, truly satisfied my soul. We have such a creative God! Our host also served us French duck dishes (“Cassoulet” and “Confit de Canard” with white asparagus) when they found out we ate mostly sandwiches in Paris because of their exorbitant prices. We still got to enjoy French cuisine even though we were already in Holland. =)

Of course, none of the travelling would have happened if not for Ryan Air, a no-frills type of airline (like Air Asia). Although very strict with their baggage regulations (or you pay fines!), their economical airfares made it possible for us to do what we did. A Dutch friend said that at one point they had a seat sale and it cost two pounds and fifty pence to travel to London! We didn’t pay ours THAT cheaply but we were able to afford it. [Note for those travelling with Ryan Air, only one hand carry is allowed on the flight which means no backpacks, purses, computer bags, etc., are allowed.]

Yesterday, we saw another close friend who lives in Wales. It was good to spend time with her around Trafalgar Square since it was also Canada Day and then later having some Chinese food at Soho, their Chinese district.

We were also hosted by friends who owned a long, narrow, canal boat. Staying with them for two nights while floating around Wolverhampton to enjoy the English countryside refreshed our tired bodies and gave us the rest we needed for more sight seeing in London. The Lord knew exactly what we needed.

The Lord used the Suddells, the Vander Meulens, the Sears, and the Bruces to host us so that our paid lodging was minimal. It’s a remarkable blessing to not just travel to see popular sites but get to visit with old friends, strengthen relationships, establish new ones, and feel united because of God. What a blessing it has all been!

In one home we visited, they had Double Delight roses. Later I realized that the Lord was doing just that! He was delighting us doubly over until our joy sensors were happily satisfied. Thank you, Lord, we get it and we praise you! YOU ARE GOOD.