Celebrating Life’s Blessings

Anniversaries, for me, have always been important occasions worth celebrating. In 1985, I marked ten years of God’s faithfulness to me since I had seriously committed my life to him. I made a conscious decision to dedicate the entire year to thank God for his steadfast love. While serving on a retreat at the end of that year, the retreat master invited us to look back on the year and list five blessings. I was amazed to realize that the blessings I had listed for the year were all major, close to miraculous even.

Thesis and dreams

One was the miraculous completion and defense of my master’s thesis in physics. After waiting a year for the right experimental conditions, the needed data was gathered in a week’s time. It took another week to analyze the data and one more week to write the research paper. By the end of the following week, my thesis was successfully defended without need of revision. It was presented at that year’s National Physics Congress. There were moments when I would encounter a problem that I could not solve. Instead of laboring long into the night, I would peacefully go to sleep trusting in God. In my dream I would see the page of a book that provided the needed solution. Awaking, I would open the book to that exact page and there, indeed, was the solution.

The lame shall leap

Another blessing for that year was the miraculous healing of a twelve-stitch cut on my knee that would have prevented me from serving in the activity-filled summer months of Christ’s Youth in Action (CYA), an outreach to young people sponsored by Ang Ligaya ng Panginoon (The Joy of the Lord), the charismatic covenant community to which I belong in Manila. The injury was crippling, and the doctor said I would need to lie immobilized in bed for at least a month. After being released from the hospital, I read the first reading for that Sunday, the cure of a cripple in Acts 3:1-8. Then when I continued with my spiritual reading, my eyes fell upon the verse in John 16:24, “Until now, you have not asked anything in my name. Ask that your joy may be full.” I knew God wanted me to ask for healing. I did so in quiet prayer and, at the prodding of a friend, would later rise from my wheelchair, jump, and bend my knee exactly where the twelve stitches were. Instead of remaining in bed for a month, I was able to lead that summer’s one-month CYA women’s household and ended the summer playing kickball in CYA’s sportsfest.

As I reflected on these blessings, it occurred to me that far more than my desire to celebrate the year, God wanted to celebrate it with me. I marveled at the abundant love of God. He seemed to say, “You have not seen anything yet.” 

I couldn’t imagine how anyone could be more blessed, but the years have indeed shown that “No eye has seen and no ear has heard, and no mind has ever conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Silver Jubilee

The twenty-fifth anniversary of my commitment to Christ was easy to celebrate. It was the year of the Great Jubilee 2000. I saved money to join a retreat in the Holy Land for women consecrated to living single for the Lord as I am. Little did we know that when this retreat was planned three years prior, it would coincide with Pope John Paul II’s long-awaited visit to the Holy Land. I could not have asked for more. In addition, the airline I took to Israel was routed through Rome so, at no extra cost, I was able to return to the place of my initial conversion in 1975. I always believed that my conversion was the result of the grace of the Holy Year in 1975. I was eager to return to Rome and walk again through the Jubilee Door to say “Thank You” for the grace of conversion.

After thirty years

After being so blessed, I didn’t think of celebrating my thirtieth anniversary in any special way. It was God who called my attention at the beginning of 2005 saying, “I myself will show you how important it is to celebrate this year.” That year was full of major blessings, each outdoing the other. The dayenu seder prayer constantly came to mind, “It would have been enough, O Lord.”

One was in the area of my professional life. After fifteen years of working full-time in community as a CYA staffer and missionary in China, I never imagined I could pursue a career that would amount to anything special at age 39. But in 1997, the word “Put out into the deep” (Luke 5:4) – spoken at Ligaya’s annual conference for all its members – led me to service beyond the borders of community. I accepted a position as dean of an exclusive Catholic girl’s college in the Makati district of Metro Manila, something I would not have even considered if not for God’s direct leading. After two terms I begged off to spend more time with my bed-ridden father. It turned out to be my father’s final year on earth. That year brought a closure to a chapter in my life. 

Peaceful in the deep

God hinted I should watch out for the new doors he would open. He led me out of the comfortable world of a convent school to the bustling heart of the university belt. I accepted an administrative position that I had not sought or would not have naturally accepted if but for the quiet assurance that it was God’s will for my life. I was appointed Vice-President for Academic Affairs of Far Eastern University, a university with about 25,000 students. The year 2005 brought about the fulfillment of God’s word spoken by Pope John Paul II: “Duc in altum! Put out into the deep. Do not be afraid to venture forth to put out the nets for a catch. The Lord himself will be your guide.”

The net indeed has been full! That year alone the net brought in among others: a victory in Harvard where our university represented the Philippines for the first time in a Global Business Plan competition and bested Harvard, MIT, Wharton and other Ivy League schools; another global victory in Vienna beating 223 entries from more than 100 countries; a UNESCO Asia Pacific Cultural Heritage Award for cultural heritage preservation in our campus; an award at the Moonrise Festival for our documentary film on the endangered Tamaraw; two of our students among the finalists in the “Ten Outstanding Students of the Philippines”; a graduate of the university being appointed as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court; another graduate winning the first gold medal for the Philippines in the Southeast Asian Games, soon followed by other alumni with a total haul of five gold, four silver and four bronze medals; championships in the UAAP and University Games, capped by the coveted UAAP basketball championship. Our university president captured our sentiments stating: “My experience of God this year has been Far Eastern University.” 

Beneath a rainbow

My life and service in Ligaya ng Paginoon [Joy of the Lord] Community was equally blessed!  There are new workings of the Spirit among the women living single for the Lord in the Sword of the Spirit.  The first regional conference for women leaders in the Asian Region of the Sword of the Spirit was also held last November. It was a powerful experience of God’s call to the communities in Asia. The 83 delegates coming from twelve Christian communities were from such diverse cultures, but experienced strong bonds of sisterhood and a unity that can only be born of the Spirit. Also as a special treat from the Lord for my 50th birthday, I was able to attend a 25-day leadership training for evangelism on the island of Maui. It was the closest thing to heaven I have experienced so far being with 53 women leaders from the developing countries across the world – all in love with God and eager to spread the Gospel.  I feel like I am more on fire for the Lord now than I have ever been, and it’s all been grace.
The image that captures the abundant blessings of all these years is that of a full rainbow towering over the majestic Niagara Falls.  As I took the wonderful sight in, God seemed to say: “Such is the abundance and power of my love in your life.”  After so many blessings, what more can one say?

At the annual retreat for women who serve on the women’s leadership team in Ligaya, I reflected on how God fills my cup to overflowing; how God’s love is like a bottomless cup. I can drink from the abundance of God and find there is still more love to be poured into my heart. The ability to enjoy God’s blessings is more a function of my capacity to receive these than of any limitation on God’s ability to bless us.

God indeed is a loving and faithful God. Surrendering my life to him has been a constant celebration of his goodness. The greatest blessing I have received is God himself – the Giver of the gifts. 

This article by Beth Melchor was originally published in True North Magazine in 2007. Used with permission. 

See other articles by Beth Melchor in previous issues of Living Bulwark:

Top photo: courtesy of Beth Melchor.

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