Sunday, August 18, 2013

life // a story of fulfilling hope - 2

sudden influx of encouragements assured my heart with the hope that God will fulfill His promises.  However, in the same time frame that those words of encouragement were spoken over me, my body began to fail me miserably.  I had no choice but to quit my job as an Assistant Manager in order to maximize the benefits of physical therapy.  There was a possibility of an auto-immune disease.

As distressing as it seemed in the natural, the few months of forced ceased labor was a blessing in disguise.  It gave me time to refocus my life and participate in opportunities that contributed to this "dream fulfillment" -
I returned to the worship ministry of my church to teach and encourage.  
I began to work/volunteer at multiple coffee shops.
I participated in an art show that unexpectedly changed my life.

Finally, I was out of the slump, the gears were turning, but my physical body was still in pain.

That was a portion of my journal when I first found out about my condition (and teared up in the doctor's office) nearly three years ago.
In the first year of the struggle, I battled fiercely in prayer.
In the second year, I was terribly discouraged by seeing no improvement, regardless of the faith and prayer.  It left me depressed, to say it lightly.
So in this third year, one could say that I reached a place of contentment.  Surely, it would be better to be pain-free, but I held onto the promise that my body will be restored, even if it will happen in the age to come.  I shouldn't have lost my persistence in prayer, but at least my faith remained.  If God were to heal me, I will welcome it with joy.  And if the healing does not arrive, I will still face Him with joy.

It happens like clockwork - on the path of faith, tremendous promises walk beside impossibility.  I have been released into my callings without the physical capabilities to do so.

In my worst moments of pain, I would mull over the whys - why did this happen to me, did I do something wrong, is this my fault... and surely, those questions were never answered because they were the wrong questions.  But I could not help but feel sorrow for the loss of ability in art and music and simple exercises.  Nonetheless, the inabilities taught me how to worship sincerely, from the foundations of my heart, without those external expressions.  

From my sketchbook in June 2012.
Distraught that I could no longer draw a straight line.
Ironically, the sketches were for the following piece:

I work in Surfers Coffee Bar on Saturday nights, when Surfers Church holds community dinners in the Cafe, followed by a service in an adjacent building.  On an ordinary slow night in June, I chose to attend the service in the middle of my shift - I was exhausted by the workload of the weeks prior, and needed restoration.  There were no special guests, no special event.  It was a simple evening.

Jonas, the Surfers Church pastor, spoke on faith.  As normal as the service seemed, one single phrase resonated in my spirit: God cares about the little things in our life.  I thought about my physical exhaustion and recounted to the Lord that my health must still matter to Him, that He must still care about my healing and my wellness, and that I can believe that He is faithful to restore my body.

When I got home that night, I sat on my bedroom floor ready to begin my usual routine: work the knots in my leg muscles and apply heat or ice.  But in the moment I held my legs, I noticed something significant - I had no pain!  I poked my legs repetitively, just to make sure that what I supposed was actuality.  No pain. I even punched my legs in different problematic spots - NO PAIN!  

It overwhelmed me that this is how much my Abba cares for me - that though there's power when the miracles are seen by many, that it didn't take a trip to the altar, or have a tangible experience in front of the congregation. But in the silence and quiet of my bedroom floor, in my pajamas, behind closed doors, God decided to show up in His glory - a glory that is so personal and so real.  He cares about my heart.  He cares about the things that matter to me, no matter if I've lost hope for it myself.  He HEALED me!

That night, in my Gratitude Journal

My hands, arms and knees are not completely healed yet, but the pain has subsided, and my legs are not stressed.  So while I wait for the full healing, I rejoice knowing that God is watching to perform His word.  And in the meanwhile, I am full of joy, just to be able to stand and walk - pain-free.

He is faithful.


currently reading: Don Potter, Facing the Wall
currently listening: All Sons and Daughters

Monday, August 5, 2013

life // a story of fulfilling hope - 1

At the beginning of 2012, I felt that God would make it one of hiding.  Little did I know how much "hiding" and "anonymity" would be prevalent themes with unforeseen proportions.  2012 was full of solitude, stillness, and the self-discipline of preparing myself for things I could not imagine (granted, I felt as though I failed at this "preparation.")  The "hiding," the concealment, the confinement had ruined my hope and motivation; this was evident in my words and actions.  The breakthroughs were few, but cherished.

Recently I looked back at that year.  I cried as I read the posts even here.  As a whole unit, they confirmed what I know of 2012 - I really did face so much hopelessness.  And that is why I wrote on hope and on contentment (and even the raw post about my health) - to encourage myself foremost.  So as I reflect on those posts, I cry not because of regret or disappointment, but because of joy.  I now see how that season of struggle is woven into this current season of rejoicing.
It's easy to forget that where there is hopelessness, there was once hope.
And where there is hope, there is an initial promise for fulfillment.
And where there is hope fulfilled, there is life.

Jan 2013. Quick illustration on John 1.46

When 2013 began (and around my birthday in February), I wanted to claim a promise for the upcoming season.  One of the words that I felt was the promise of "hope fulfilled." Granted, my hopes are numerous, and I could not tell exactly what the Lord referred to.  But this much I knew: 2012 indeed was a year of "hiding," but like a seed, underground.  And if this is the year of hope fulfilled, it could mean anything - maybe I will see the produce, maybe I will see a mere sprout, but it will be enough to reassure that Abba is watching and taking care of my heart.

After my heart had been comforted by this promise, over the course of a few weeks, three significant people had spoken directly into my heart about the things that weighed upon me, without being aware of my struggles of the past and the anticipations of the future.

The first person spoke to me about my spiritual life, my ministry, and my health.
He released me back into worship and intercession, and encouraged me that physical ailments are not hindrances to loving God, and receiving love by another.

The second person spoke to me about my character, my childhood pursuits and my finances.
He reminded me to be a person of integrity, to have faith and dreams bigger than my checkbook, and to be a good steward of the visions God has given to me for years by setting measurable goals. (A double rainbow appeared after this conversation - the second one is faint, top left).  It was the day after my birthday.

The third person spoke to me about relationships - friends, family, and my future family.
She reiterated the importance of respecting the family I have, and respecting the irrevocable covenant of marriage.  She also gave me hope for the waiting.

When all of this was said, my heart was so overwhelmed.  Every major area of my life was tackled; I was convicted and encouraged.  So I approached my mom about this, and her reply:

The LORD is bringing a huge wave your way, and when it comes to you, two things can happen: either this wave will crash over you and break you, or you can stand up and ride it.  RIDE THE WAVE.

But Jesus.. I've never surfed before...