in memoriam

I became a widow nearly 22 months ago. I just felt compelled to share here what I posted on Facebook 6 days after my husband passed (original post here) —

May I request you to read until the end? 🙂

My best friend, my personal pastor, the love of my life next to Jesus, my swashbuckling, ipis exterminator, my Superhon, completed his earthly mission on September 1st 2020. “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21)

Wowell used to remark that eulogies, prayers, gatherings and ceremonies in honor of those who have passed away are really for the benefit of those left behind. A mere day or two before he left, we were talking over breakfast and got into the topic of death, and he said surely upon arrival in heaven one would be occupied by nothing else but just the overwhelming, joyous presence of God.

I share this belief. Wowell, whose absence from his body means he is now home with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8), has nothing to gain from what I am writing. So I am doing this partly for myself, I guess, and largely to address all who can benefit from his, our testimony. Rather than write a long narrative I have chosen to share these nuggets:

– I have already expressed this to a number of people, that from the moment I knew he was gone I’ve been filled with indescribable grief and yet also with absolute peace. The peace comes from knowing two things: First, Wowell has been called home to be with Jesus, in accordance with God’s sovereign will and timing (God is truly good. ALL the time). Second, between the two of us there were zero words left unsaid, zero love left un-expressed, zero forgiveness withheld, zero issues unresolved. No baggage, no what-ifs or should’ves. This is a gift that I will forever be thankful for, a blessing that came out of how the Lord pruned us and enabled us to come to a point of shared commitment, surrender and obedience to Him.

– Wowell’s life was not one of perfection, but of grace-filled transformation. He and I as individuals and as a couple made many mistakes and quite frankly did pretty ghastly things, but by God’s amazing, amazing grace, the last 10 years of Wowell’s life were devoted to relentlessly pursuing, loving, following and growing in the Lord. Years of searching and striving led him to this conclusion: “I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.” (Philippians 3:8)

– Wowell spent many years in infrequent, if not constant discomfort and pain. He was always tired during the day as sleepless nights were common. He would ask the Lord, “ano kaya ang purpose Mo for me, for this?” His prayer had been for God to heal him miraculously. Yet he would also say, “but Lord, I surrender all to You. If it is in this sickness that You will use me, that You will accomplish Your purposes for my life, Your will and not mine be done.” Having heard and read dozens of testimonies over the last few days from people from different facets of his life, I could only conclude that indeed, that was how God used him the most — his example of strength, endurance, steadfast, ever-deepening faith in the Lord and persistence in loving others and making Christ known in the midst of his pain, became his legacy. “Walang sayang,” as we would say, no difficulty was left un-used by the Lord. Through and through he manifested his conviction, that “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). All by the grace of God.

– Wowell recognized God’s hand at work in everything and always considered himself spoiled. Yes he would complain to the Lord about his pain, but he would also keep remarking how the Lord’s mercies were showered upon us everyday. He considered the arrival of Hans in our lives as God’s ultimate, surprise bonus: Almost everyday he would stare at his son, and in tears would remark, “Paano tayo nagkaroon ng ganito? What did we do to deserve such a gift?” Many times each day he would tell Hans, “Alam mo anak, mahal na mahal kita. Alam mo ba yun? Sana talaga alam mo yun.” Wowell just could not stop thanking God for him, and for God’s grace that allowed him to be the earthly father of this, our little bundle of joy. “Joy talaga!!!” as he would exclaim.

I feel there is so much more for me to say but I will stop here for now. These things I share here, I know, are things that Wowell would have wanted to impart specifically because they point to the ONE THING that made all the difference in his life and that would make all the difference in each of our lives: Jesus. It is my prayer, as I’m sure it would be his, that you who read this will seek and know Christ the way he did.

To all who loved Wowell, I say thank you from the bottom of my heart. I also wish to express my earnest gratitude to all who have expressed their love to me, Hans and the rest of the family over the last days. Thank you, thank you.

May the grace and the peace of God be with you all.

Grace blocker

Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:10‭-‬11)

I have recently been reflecting on grace and the call to holiness. More particularly, my heart is being convicted by a disturbing realization.

Foremost, I would like to share that I can very much relate to the adulterous woman of John 8. I am in constant awe and am overwhelmed by gratitude for the reality of the LORD’s grace towards me — that He has forgiven me for my sins and replaced my identity from child of darkness to child of God. Experiencing the LORD’s incomparable, saving love compels me to live for Him and to offer myself to Him, and to pursue His command for me to be holy, as He is holy.

Yet here is where the LORD is stirring my heart: As I pursue a life of personal holiness and depend upon His continuing grace to do so, have I also been allowing this same grace to overflow unto others? How am I viewing and treating the “adulterous women” that the LORD is placing in my life?

When a person I am ministering to commits a blatant sin that has enormous consequences, is my first impulse to shame, or maybe to cast stones? Am I inclined to remove her from my circle so that she will not “infect” others? Do I fear that maybe extending forgiveness conveys the message that sin is okay?

How often do I take the route of the scribes and the Pharisees?

In contrast, how often have I been willing to take the more challenging route – that is, to follow the example of Jesus, and to be a messenger of His persistent love and grace that lead not to the condonation of sin, but to the transformation of the heart? How often have I been an instrument of redemption and restoration, instead of condemnation and rejection?

The Gospels are replete of parables about the lost ONE: one coin, one sheep, one prodigal son. In all these stories Jesus shows what God is willing to do for the sake of the ONE. Jesus also gives a view of what grace does to the heart of the one who had been lost and was found: When a Pharisee questioned His acceptance of the touch of a sinful woman, who wept on and wiped His feet with her hair and poured perfume on them, He replied (after telling a parable of two debtors: the one who owed and was forgiven more, would love the master more), “ Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” (Luke 7:47)

Oh, how we tend to lose sight of these truths from the LORD!

Inasmuch as my heart is torn to pieces by the conviction of how far I often veer from being the vessel of grace that I ought to be, I am beyond thankful to the Holy Spirit for humbling me and reminding me: In the same way that God made me a new creation by His grace, He continues to make a new creation out of every sinful human that He is redeeming. My role is not to be a self-righteous stumbling block, but a loving messenger and channel of this hope that can only be found in Jesus.

Prayer: Father, forgive us for the times that we forget we are mere recipients of Your grace, too, who would not have overcome sin and blindness apart from Your redeeming love. May You humble us always and cause us to overflow with the same transforming grace that we have received from You, to embrace and offer hope to those whom we disciple, should they stumble, and to the lost whom You have called us to reach for You. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

(The above is a devotional entry I recently wrote for my organization’s Facebook group.)

Life is for sharing

There come certain points in my life when I crave solitude or prefer to do things on my own. These are precious times, I believe, yet I know, too, that one can only go so far by him/herself – – after all, God Himself said upon observing Adam, “it is not good for man to be alone.”

Through all these years of journeying with the Lord, I have seen again and again that truly, the ‘lone ranger Christian’ life is not only a myth, but an oxymoron. How else can the Great Commandment be lived out if not in the context of shared lives?

It’s been humbling how God has given me people — longtime friends, disciplers and discipleship groupmates, family most especially my dear husband — to share my ups and downs, bumps and smooth roads with. They have shared their journey with me, too, and what a privilege it has been to be a witness to how God has been at work in their lives!

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment.
And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40)

And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. (Hebrews 10:25)