Monday, September 24, 2012

Being Sustained

I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.

Psalm 3:5
The past week is a blur to me, now, but I remember it being full of the Lord’s help and blessings. Following my mother’s funeral on Saturday, my sons (Evan and Eric) and I left to go to Ottawa very early the next day. I had not planned to drive us there but no public transit was available for Eric to return to his college in time for his week-end commitment. After we arrived, I remembered that it was my desire to bring him there. I’d forgotten because I gave up on its fulfilment since I had to return to Thailand to renew my visa in June. Of course, because of the perfect timing of my mother’s death, I was not just back here to attend her funeral, but also to do what I’d hoped to do for my son. Truly, Papa God gives us the desires of our hearts. It isn’t really hard for Him to do it even if we ourselves have given up on it! =) It blessed me to see where my son lived and to meet his housemates. He is in good hands. =D

Aside from that, after driving Eric, Evan and I proceeded to Alumette Island in Quebec to spend the night at my best friend’s house. This was recommended to me since 9 hours of driving (Toronto to Ottawa and back), after an emotional and tiring week, would have been difficult. I immediately realized it to be a brilliant idea! My friend lived in a picturesque, peaceful, and remote island so it was a perfect place for me to pray, process my mother’s death, listen to God, and REST. I was blessed with the solace I needed and the exercise as I also had a chance to use their canoe. =)

The rest of last week was spent being with my family as prayers for my mother were said nightly, ending just last night. It’s been super TIRING! I am just so glad that the Lord has been faithful to sustain me with new energy and strength each day. Not only has He been touching my body to function daily with very few hours of sleep but He’s also been giving me peace about my mother’s passing. I know her stroke caused bleeding in her brain which was accompanied by a severe headache. For the first time since she became ill with Alzheimer’s, she went through the door leading to the basement, entered it, and closed the door behind her. She then fell down the stairs and lost consciousness. When she was found, she was brought to the hospital but she never regained consciousness. Just over an hour later since her fall, with her loved ones all around her, she died peacefully and painlessly after final rites were prayed over her. The Lord’s grace was her fall and subsequent unconsciousness to immediately not feel much pain. I am grateful. The Lord is SO GOOD and she is whole and alive once again, with Him. Amen. =)
Death, where is your sting?
Grave where is your victory?

From the song “He’s Alive” by Cory Asbury and Laura Hackett

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

I Love My Husband

I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! --- and, if God grants,
I shall but love thee better after death!!

From the poem “How Do I Love Thee” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Since we’d been living overseas, I’d been returning to Toronto in the summers to look after my parents. In one of those times, I overheard my parents while I hung out in their room. My mother (then at the beginnings of her Alzheimer’s) said, “What am I going to do with my head? What if I can no longer remember you?” My father then said, “You can forget everything, just don’t forget me.”

Years later, as her sickness progressed, it became very apparent that she had forgotten most things and most people (including us, her children). At one of her neurologist’s check-up, she was asked the same questions from the years before: “Where are you? What day is it? What is the month? What city are you in? What is this (holding a pen)? What is it used for?” And for the last question, my mother motioned with her hand that it was for writing. The word “writing” wouldn’t come to her. The doctor then wrote the word “BLINK” on a piece of paper and asked her to do it. She did so.

As I watched, I was very relieved that she was able to do at least one thing correctly! Then, the doctor asked her to write a sentence. It seemed like we all held our breaths. My father, their caregiver, and I, waited to see what she wrote. Finally, she held out her paper to the doctor who asked her to read her work. She smiled and proudly said, “I love my husband.”

I treasured that memory in my heart. I actually cried while there. I understood the significance that although she had forgotten most things (including how to eat!), she remembered the most important thing to her: love. In their 50th Wedding Anniversary album she dedicated the poem above to my father. She said it best described her love for him. It was as if she knew she would die first. Had she kept living, they would have celebrated their 64th Wedding Anniversary on September 12th.

“Moments of Peace for the Morning” by Bethany House says that “if you love others, God – the source of love – lives in you. The more you practice His unfailing love, the more His presence is perfected in you. The blessing of love is twofold. Love others, and not only will your love grow, but God – the spring from which all love flows – will show Himself more powerfully within you.”

And that was what was evident in my mother; her love for God, my father, us - her children, grandchildren, flowers, music, cleanliness and order, their church, teaching, studying, etc.

So, although much can be said about her, I wrote of her love. She was next in line for EARIST’s (an institute of Science and Technology in Manila) presidency and she loved her job dearly but she quit it to be with us in Canada. She said she loved her family more. By then, she was the Vice President of the university and Dean of its Graduate School.

She also wrote of her thankfulness to God for His countless blessings and for being the giver of gifts and lives well lived. She desired for us to have the same happiness she had.

I never knew until she died, half of what she did and accomplished. She lived her life well. I will remember most of all how she swayed us as she had her arm around my shoulders while I played the piano. It was a joy to be with her as she sang with gusto to the music. Then, she kissed me, thanked me, and told me she loved me. Thank you, Lord, that you shared her with us. It is comforting to know that she is with you and basking in your love.
Liwayway (Lily) Nora Angeles (Nanay)
March 10, 1924 – September 9, 2012

May the Lord make your love for each other and for everyone else grow by leaps and bounds. 1 Thessalonians 3:12 CEV

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Departure Date

The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
may the name of the Lord be praised.

Job 1:21b
“Do you understand what the song is about?” I asked Ethan as I drove us to school. We were just singing along to the song “Blessings” by Laura Story which had recently become his favorite. He’d complain to me whenever I played the CD over and over but never when that song was on. In response to my question, he said when bad things happen; they can actually be God’s blessings. I agreed with him and further added that at times when we pray and don’t get what we ask for, it's because God has something better in mind. That’s what He does and gives to us. Little did I know that just two hours later, I would find out some grave news which would make the song just uncannily perfect as a comforting reminder.

After arriving at school, our oldest son phoned and said my mother had fallen down the stairs and was in the hospital. She was not doing well with some bleeding in her brain. An hour later, another call came through saying she was in a coma. Following that by just five minutes, a final call informed us that she had just passed away.

The photo above was taken last year when my father turned 90 years old. My mother was then 87 years old.
Death is so very much a part of our lives but there is just no way to prepare for it. I had long told myself that living overseas as a missionary would most likely mean receiving a call such as the one I just took. Still, in spite the necessary expectation, the shock predominated. In just a few hours, I’ll be on a flight to go back to Toronto to be with my siblings and father. It hasn’t even been 12 hours since I found out.

Thank you for praying. Our family values it greatly. My father loved my mother very much (we all did!) and made sacrifices daily to take care of her. She’s had Alzheimer’s for at least 8 years and in all that time he never spent a day apart from her. He lived to care and pray for her. Please pray for him specifically as he deals with his loss and consider what his future plans will be.

I had a very busy week-end but I managed to get away for my monthly quiet time from Saturday afternoon to yesterday afternoon. I thought I needed that to pray and prepare my mind for my online course which started today. I knew I would be busy in the weeks ahead and needed to be rooted in the Lord. I was just sharing at a meeting that my times away were what kept me sane and not burned out from all I’ve been through in the last few years. I had friends I always shared and prayed with. Yet, it was my times with Papa God that sustained me. It wasn't so much my pouring out my heart and woes to Him that helped me. It was His pouring His love and affirmation in me that truly ministered and satisfied my soul. And it was coming out of that connectedness with Him that I received the news today. The timing couldn’t have been any better. First, He loved on me, then the news. He knows that coming out of our time together, I would feel that I can handle and do anything! So yes, I am grieving, but, I am so grateful for my Lord who loves me and helps me.

Today, I just felt so ministered to by those around me. I was hugged, prayed for, loved, fed, listened to, considered, helped, and asked to leave so I could do what I needed to do. I was awed. We serve a great, big God. What won’t He do for us? I even received a sympathy card with a butterfly on it. Yes, Lord, I see! Thank you! Please see previous post, “Transformed”, for more information. I just love the Lord and His ways!

I’m ending with an inspirational thought with the title above. It's from Max Lucado’s book “Grace for the Moment vol. II” for September 9th, the date my mother died. A friend handed the book to me just as I was leaving the school. =)
You, as all God’s children, live one final breath from your own funeral.
The day you die is better than the day you are born. (Eccles. 7:1 NLT)
Heaven enjoys a maternity-ward reaction to funerals. Angels watch body burials the same way grandparents monitor delivery-room doors. They can’t wait to see the new arrival. We don’t grieve when babies enter the world. The hosts of heaven don’t weep when we leave it.

Sunday, September 2, 2012


Through You, I can do anything
I can do all things, ‘cause it’s You who gives me strength
Nothing is impossible

From the song “Nothing is Impossible” by Planetshakers
Thursday nights and early Sunday mornings are the times when we practice as a worship team before playing during the service. Usually, the list of songs is emailed by Tuesday so we can individually practice with our instruments ahead of time. Due to computer problems, I only found out what we were playing on the way to church on Thursday. I play by ear so I have to be familiar with a song to have an idea how to play it. There was no time for me to practice, let alone hear (thru YouTube) how a new song played. Thankfully, my singer friend repeatedly sang the unfamiliar song to me as I drove us.

I sounded awful when we practiced together. I knew I had to practice some more on my own, and did! Unfortunately, trying to practice without playing the melody – which was how my right hand knew how to naturally play(!) – wasn’t easy. I tried to play using the chord variations but it didn’t sound right. Worse of all, I couldn’t worship because I was trying to figure out how to play!

On Sunday, as we finished practicing before the service, our team leader told me I should just play the chord and hold it down. I wasn’t to allow my fingers to go up and down the keys (playing arpeggio). I asked if he meant for just the intro of the songs but he said for each chord I played. Immediately, I knew I had to re-learn a new way of playing and just minutes before the service started! Playing the melody was what I naturally did. Playing arpeggio was how I naturally played! When I prayed before the service started, I knew I needed a LOT of help! I knew I could play as he asked but it was no longer anywhere near how I liked to play and it certainly wasn’t as fun. Most of all, I was disturbed because I knew I had to pay attention to the new way I was supposed to play and would have an even harder time worshipping! Still, I was determined to obey. When we started, I tried as best I could to play as he asked.

I don’t think I succeeded the whole time but I knew I tried as well as I could, in the time I was given to get used to playing that way (which was none). I surprised myself that I worshipped anyway. In my heart, the Lord deserved it regardless that I thought I didn’t sound right nor good. And that’s when the butterfly flew in the sanctuary. We were singing the lines above and it started to fly towards us in the front. It fluttered here and there just in front of the stage and I thought I imagined it. I didn’t! I smiled broadly when one child loudly said, “Look, a butterfly!

The last time I was mesmerized by a flying butterfly was six years ago as the school’s principal asked me to consider teaching first grade for a semester. As I listened to her, the custodian opened the door of the classroom we were in and in flew the butterfly with him. I stopped hearing her because my mind was completely baffled that a butterfly would fly inside that second floor room, at that perfect time, as a new direction in my life was being offered to me. And it happened again in the sanctuary. In both places, I’d not seen any butterfly fly in before, nor after. Those times were firsts!

Almost 20 years ago, I received a prophetic word and I was likened to a butterfly. I remember because I wrote down what she said and kept it. Since then, butterflies in general, and butterfly sightings in particular, fascinated me. They’d flutter by me and one even landed on my finger! One came from a nearby island, danced this way and that, and then flew back the way it came. I was sitting by the edge of the water on the beach and saw the whole thing. I was trying to write on my journal what I was hearing from God and there it was. =) The Lord’s delight in flying form!

I know that I was like a caterpillar transformed into a butterfly. The Lord changed me, taught me, and helped me to be a new person. He brings about changes like being able to play the keyboard at church and then exaggerates the point by flying in a real one. He is so amazing!

And, as I sat there listening to the preaching, all of a sudden, the pastor said, “It doesn’t matter that our musicians cannot play well so long as they can take us to the presence of God.” I might have wondered if I really heard that but Eng was then pressing my hand and making sure I knew it was a word for me. I don’t know what else to say. We have an amazingly fascinating God. There is no end to His surprises!
I’m not gonna live by what I see
I’m not gonna live by what I feel
Deep down I know that You’re here with me
And I know that You can do anything!