Celebrate Purity in Cebu

Celebrate Purity is a symposium that culminates in a purity ball for homeschoolers. It is organized for kids ages 10 and older and intended to bring them to a point of commitment to purity.  Initiated by TMA homeschool back in 2009, it caught the interest of families in Cebu. Who has a ball for purity anyway?! Only homeschoolers! The symposium is usually attended by parents and their kids and by the end of the entire series, there is an evening dinner.

Edric and I flew to Cebu Saturday and gave a short talk for the ball, which was the culminating event of their purity symposium. The Cebu families went all out! Harold Hotel was beautifully decorated, professional entertainers were hired (they were incredible, by the way), a photographer took family portraits, the food was delicious, and the fathers danced with their daughters and the moms with their sons.

I liked the special charge that Edric to the fathers. He told them, “The buck stops with us. We are accountable for teaching our children to pursue purity and doing our best to safeguard them. Purity must begin with us.” My part of the talk was about guarding your heart. But the most meaningful part of the event was the ceremony. Families huddled over a covenant form, parents put purity rings on their kids, and the families walked up to a cross to put their roses on it as a sign of their commitment of purity to Jesus.

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Homeschool Moms Need Romance

I know the title may sound a little misleading. It really should read like this: Homeschool Moms Need Romance from Their Husbands.

As a homeschooling mom, I get sick and tired of homeschooling from time to time. Yes, I said it. It sounds pretty horrible to be that honest, but I do get emotionally worn out…especially on days when my kids are difficult to motivate or I feel discouraged by my own shortcomings. I didn’t say that I get sick and tired of my kids, just the responsibility of having to teach them and be consistent about it.

During these occasions of emotional fatigue, my first instinct is to go to the Lord and ask for renewed grace and energy to keep going. My second recourse is to refuel my emotional tank. And that’s where my husband, Edric, comes to the rescue. He is sensitive to my threshold level and will get me out of the house for a nice walk and some fresh air, or isolate the two of us in our room for a heart to heart conversation, or put on a movie so we can enjoy some fun, mindless entertainment.  He knows when I need a “break.”

One thing I’ve really appreciated, however, is our date night. This happens on a Monday evening, just three hours of Edric and I. We don’t bring the kids, we avoid checking our cellphones, and we veer away from unromantic conversations that begin with questions like, “Did you pay for the water bill?” We do, however, give each other undivided attention and have very honest conversations over dinner about things like how we can improve, what God is teaching us, dreams, highs and lows, etc. (And by the way, Mondays are a great night to go out because NOBODY goes out on a Monday night. We never have to stress out about restaurant reservations or running out of theatre seats when we watch a movie.)

The kids also know that these nights are reserved for just the two of us. We used to have to bargain with them, but Edric made it very clear that date nights are a given. “We do this so we can love each other more and love you more,” he used to say. The kids get it now. From saying, “Why do you have to go out?” we more often get, “Okay! See you tomorrow! Love you!” instead.

Going out on Monday evenings is how Edric and I keep the romance going in our marriage. Our dates aren’t elaborate (romance doesn’t have to be), but we make them quality time for us. It’s the meaningfulness of the date that makes it romantic. Amidst the multitudinous number of responsibilities that we have to deal with, it’s our way of saying to one another, “You are the most important person in my life and I want to spend time with you.”

Well, it certainly gives my week a kick-start. Somehow, I’m more motivated to homeschool and parent my kids. My emotional tank is not running on empty for the kids or others. Ultimately, I draw strength from the Lord, but it helps to have a husband who romances me, too! After all, what homeschooling mom can keep goin’ without good lovin’? Not me!

Edric and I at Umu Restaurant, Dusit Hotel for a triple date night with old friends. Triple dates are unusual for Mondays, but we had fun talking couple stuff with our friends. Thanks for the fantastic food, Escaros!

 

Never Too Young to Be a Leader

I finally finished Tim Elmore’s book, Generation iY. His last chapter is entitled, “Save the Future.” It is about preparing today’s children and youth to be the next generation of leaders who will make a positive difference in our world to save the future. He included a section called “You’re Never Too Young to Be a Leader,” which was a good reminder that our kids can initiate doing great things even when they are young.

– Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed his first symphony at age 8.
– Bill Gates started Microsoft at age 19.
– Trevor Ferrel began Trevor’s Place to feed the homeless at age 12.
– John Wesley launched the beginnings of the Methodist movement at age 17.
– Albert Einstein wrote his first scientific paper at age 16.
– Stephen Spielberg directed his first indie film at age 16.
– Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook at age 19.
– Louis Braille designed his system of reading for the blind at age 15.
– Josiah became king of Israel at age 8 and began reforming the country at age 16.
– Joan of Ark led three thousand French knights into battle at age 17.
– Sagen Woorley started a free-lunch program for the poor at age 12.
– Steve Jobs launched Apple Computers at age 21.
– Pioneer missionaries of the Student Volunteer Movement in the late 1800s set out to sea when they were 18 to 24.
– Teresa of Calcutta started her work in India at age 19.
– Cassie Burnall stood for her faith at gunpoint at age 17.
– DesMonte Love led kids to safety in Hurricane Katrina at age 6.
– George Williams started the YMCA at age 23.
– Zach Hunter launched a modern initiative to set slaves free at age 15.

While I was inspired by this list, the greatest thing our kids can ever do is win souls for the Kingdom of God. I am praying that God will allow our children to catch the vision of world change by doing great things that will attract people to Jesus Christ. After all, only Jesus Christ can save our future.

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Dad Matters

As I was leaving TMA Homeschool’s office the other day, I grabbed my boys’ stuff — two violins, a music bag, a backpack and a lunch bag and made my way towards the kids and Edric. They were sitting in the consultation room finishing their lunch. I almost got to them when I was intercepted by my older son, who noticed that I was carrying all their things. He quickly came to my aid and said, “Mom, let me help you. I don’t want dad to see you carrying our things.”

A part of me wanted to carry everything myself so we could get out of the office quicker. I had another activity to attend and it was an hour away. However, our son was very insistent and I knew that he wanted to please his dad by being responsible for his own things. So I said, “Thanks, hon. You’ve gotten so strong. I really appreciate you helping me.” I noticed he flexed his muscles and was motivated to exert more effort as he took the bags and violins from me.

The desire to take charge of his things was instilled in him by Edric. And I really appreciate that Edric is taking his role as a father seriously, even in the little ways. On Thursdays, our older sons come into the office with him to attend their violin and Taekwondo classes. He uses this time to mentor them. One of the things he has trained them to do is keep track of their belongings and be responsible for them. It doesn’t sound like such a big deal, but for our boys, taking care of their things does not come naturally. Left alone, their closets and toys would be in a constant state of explosion!

One thing is for sure, Edric has a special way with our sons. His input, mentoring, feedback, guidance, and encouragement does wonders. I love it because it makes my parenting a whole lot easier. But more than that, our sons are growing up with a clear understanding of what it means to be a man because Edric is so hands on with them and present in their lives.

We know many fathers who are purposeful with their sons and we can see the difference — the confidence, sense of security, and masculinity exhibited by the boys, young men or grown men who have spent alot of time with their dads. In fact, just today we had lunch with a homeschooling family in Cebu and Edric and I asked the sons (a 13 and 15 year old), “What is one thing you appreciate about your parents?” The 13 year old son said, “Quiet time with dad.” We asked what that meant and he shared that it’s when he gets to spend one on one time with his dad to ask and talk about anything. Edric and I took note of this because our sons are still young but they will need Edric more and more as they grow up.

In a world where gender confusion is so common, I thank God for a husband who recognizes his integral role in raising our sons to be men. I pray that all fathers would realize how much a dad matters, especially to their sons. And I also pray they would remember that being the kind of dad the matters starts with having a relationship with our heavenly father. (A friend reminded me to include this last part.:))

“He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers…” (Malachi 4:6 NASB)

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Be Radical!

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Last Sunday, my husband, Edric, preached a message on being RADICAL. He talked about how Christians, or people who choose to follow Jesus can be the very reason why others DON’T want Jesus. Christians have gotten such a bad reputation for being self-righteous hypocrites, inconsistent in their beliefs and practices, wearing Christianity like a badge that doesn’t really describe who they really are.

He asked, “Are we the reason why people don’t want to follow Jesus?” “Are we the reason why other Christians stumble, get discouraged, and lose faith?” “Are we the reason why our own family members, spouse or children reject Christianity?” What’s the solution? We need RADICAL Christianity! We need to be the reason why people want Jesus.

How do we do this? Edric used the passage in 1 Peter 2:11-12 as a challenge for all of us.

Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation. (1 Peter 2:11, 12 NASB)

First, we need to have the right perspective or paradigm. The apostle Peter reminds us that this world is not our permanent home, that we are “aliens and strangers,” people in transit.

When we recognize that we are merely passing through this earth then we will not become too comfortable. We will avoid assimilating ourselves so that we think, look, speak and act like everyone else. For example, do we use our words to bless and encourage others, or do we gossip, slander, or curse with our mouths? Do we choose to be positive during trials and when we encounter problems or do we become negative and bitter?

Second, Edric shared that radical Christians avoid sin at all costs. We need to do whatever it takes to safeguard ourselves against sin. He gave practical measures like practicing contentment, and sticking to our spiritual disciplines of reading the Bible, prayer, worship, fellowship or accountability (being in a small group), fasting, and giving (giving of time, talents, resources to serve God and others).

When we were young children, my parents used to teach us the principle of “feeding the white dog and starving the black dog.” Inside of us are two opposing natures — the flesh and the spirit. That tension will be there until the day we die. The only way we can overcome sin or the flesh is to turn our attention and energy towards growing in Christ. Instead of focusing on a list of things we aren’t supposed to do, we need to busy ourselves becoming more and more Christ-centered. The Bible tells us to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith…” (Hebrews 12:2 NASB) As we fix our eyes on Jesus, he gives us the power to live victoriously.

Next, Edric talked about the pursuit of 360 degree excellence. Do we look at all areas of our lives — from personal to marital to parenting to family to work to ministry — and evaluate whether we are complacent or continually improving and changing for the better? Sometimes, we can be good at work but deficient as spouses or parents. Or, our home life can be in order but our work life is suffering from mediocrity. 360 degree excellence is found in this verse, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10a NASB) In other words, do your best!

A good test of 360 degree excellence is to ask our spouse, children, parents, co-workers or boss how we can improve. Edric and I try to do this often with one another and with our children. It is not always easy because pride gets in the way, but being accountable to one another and being willing to change keeps our family relationships healthy. More importantly, we encourage each other to grow in Christ-likeness.

Lastly, Edric used the life of superstar athlete, Tim Tebow, as an example of excellence. He said that at the end of the day, excellence is not for personal gain, it is for the glory of God. This is the “why” behind being radical.

Tim Tebow was the youngest college football player to receive the Heisman Trophy Award when he was a sophomore. He was said to be one of the greatest college football players of all time. With such widespread popularity and influence, he has used his fame to draw attention to Jesus Christ. People who have heard of this guy and seen his interviews know without a doubt that he is a follower of Jesus. He is very vocal about what he believes in. And there is no dichotomy between his personal life and public persona. Besides being a phenomenal athlete, he is a good son, he has kept himself a virgin, and he is actively involved in overseas ministry work in the Philippines. (And yes, he was also a homeschooler growing up!) Read more about his life in his recently published memoir, Through My Eyes, a New York Times Best Seller.

As Edric ended his message, he shared a word of caution. He said that radical does not mean we become irrelevant — isolating ourselves from the world and becoming a bunch of legalists whom people cannot relate to. We need to be in the world but not of the world.

I also want to add that radical can be lonely. For example, as advocates of homeschooling, often perceived as a pretty radical way to raise and teach children, Edric and I sometimes feel like it is such an uphill “battle.” Sure, we are convinced that it is the best education and childhood our children could ever have, but other parents don’t always understand the heart behind homeschooling. At least, not initially.

Most of the time, parents watch other homeschoolers first or they just don’t care. Homeschooling is nowhere on their horizon. But, when they see the fruit and evidence of success in home schooled children, it makes them curious. They research, they ask questions, they attend orientations. At some point, God speaks to them and they hear it loud and clear — they get it. They get that the most important thing is to raise their children to know and love God and that homeschooling is the most effective way to do this.

People won’t always get the why behind radical, but nothing done for the glory of God goes to waste. The Bible says,Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. (Galatians 6:9, NASB) So let us not lose heart when we pursue radical purity, radical cheerfulness, radical patience, radical holiness, etc…We may one day be the very reason why someone comes to Jesus! By your grace, Lord!

Historical Field Trip

We had a pretty amazing day with our playgroup in Intramuros. The afternoon started off with a lights and sounds show and culminated with a visit to Fort Santiago. For just less than 200 per person, it was well worth it. It was certainly better than reading about history from a book!

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Easy Science Activities

One of my sons is not so fond of listening to me read about science topics. He easily gets bored when he has to sit through another one of my reading sessions. So I had to modify my approach with him for teaching science — more hands-on activities, less textbook. So far he has enjoyed the different topics we are covering.

Unlike his older brother who didn’t mind going in depth with Apologia’s science curriculum (We have covered astronomy, biology, botany and now, we are doing zoology), this son of mine needs to experience science.

Static Electricity – We rubbed a purple balloon on my hair and did two experiments. My kids saw how bits of paper jumped up to the balloon and how water bends toward the balloon when there is static electricity on it.

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Density – Pour sprite into a glass bowl and put some raisins in the bowl. The raisins will “dance” as the bubbles from the carbonized drink attach to the raisins. They will go up and down. When they go up and the bubbles pop, they sink back down.

Mass – Make a homemade scale using rubber bands, a ruler, tape, something to rest the ruler on, and two containers (must be the same kind) for either side. Compare weights of objects and see how heavier objects stretch the rubber bands longer.

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Chemical Change – Put two table spoons of baking soda in a bowl and slowly pour vinegar on it. A chemical reaction will take place causing the baking soda to fizz like a gas and ooze. The boys loved this one.

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On the Rocks

Before the Rapids - Everyone is still smiling and confident

 

“I will always rescue you,” Edric said as we grabbed our helmets and vests and headed for the Davao Wild River Rapids.

Ever since I got pulled under the Gulf Coast waves in Florida as a young child, I developed a fear of drowning. This fear is the reason why I don’t like sports like surfing, scuba diving or anything that has to do with being under water. So when TMA Homeschool (the organization Edric and I are connected with) organized a team building activity that involved rapids, I was a little nervous.

It didn’t help that my thrill-seeking husband asked our guide to make the raft capsize. He was so excited about getting everyone to fall into the water. I kept telling him, “Please don’t make him do that, babe. You are scaring the whole team.” He just laughed and thought it was funny that everyone was freaking out. But to be considerate, he decided that only those who wanted a more adventurous experience would ride in our raft.

Riding the rapids taught me so many spiritual lessons. But I was happiest when it all ended and we made it out of the three-hour ordeal alive.

The first thing I learned was, pay attention to God’s instruction and heed it. In the same way that we had to listen to our guides and apply what they taught us, God gives us life principles to live by. These principles are meant to prepare us for the battles of life, protect us, equip us for everyday living, and help us finish well. Our guides were very specific about how to put on our protective gear, how to rescue one another, how to do a defensive swim, what each part of the raft was, how to use an oar, and we had to memorize the six commands for paddling. And like our guides who knew everything about the Davao river and it’s rapids, God sees the bigger picture so we can trust him with our lives.

Rough Water! Edric loving it!

My next lesson was, problems in marriage and life are inevitable. You can’t blame people when bad things happen. You have to focus on what is within your control and do what you can. In marriage, Edric and I learned this statement from authors, Harold and Darlene Sala: when things get tense in marriage and you want to blame your spouse, say this instead, “You are not the enemy.”

The first time our raft nearly capsized, I was upset at Edric. I felt that this would not have happened if he had not challenged our guide. He fell hard on top of me and I was forced under the the water — my worst fear! I was so disoriented and drank quite a bit of the river (which was brown from all the soil that mixed into it during rainy season). Edric found me right away and made sure I was okay. But, I had mixed feelings about my hero. A part of me was thinking, Is this what you wanted?! How could you have let this happen to me?! However, the current was so strong that Edric and I didn’t have time to discuss marriage issues. We were in survival mode. Blaming him for our treacherous predicament was the last of my priorities. I just wanted both of us and everyone else to make it out of there.

As he instructed me, I was more than glad to submit to his leading. Edric helped me maneuver myself to the “defensive position,” which the guides had explained as floating down the river feet first and holding on to the ore against your chest. I felt the rocks beneath me as I rushed past them. Admittedly, I was freaking out. Edric saw panic on my face and he said, “I got you.” He helped me dodge a huge, jagged rock and get to calmer water.

We eventually got rescued but this was just the beginning of the rapids. Later on, we found out that someone almost died in the same spot where we had nearly capsized! The water in that part forcefully sucks a person under and will repeatedly spin them around and around.

Edric and I did what we could to get back to safety. Eventually, we were both pulled up onto another raft by our friends.

Getting rescued made me realize that no person makes it through life as a lone ranger. The company we keep is crucial. We need to surround ourselves with people who will keep us going in the right direction. There will be moments when we will need someone to be there to help us through an obstacle or problem, pray for us, offer encouragement, or keep us grounded in the truth when circumstances get tough. Do we have people like that in our lives? Are we that kind of people to others?

Scary!

Back to the rapids…We all took a break to regroup and get over the crises of being flung off the rafts. We found a small shore to “park.” There were other people besides Edric and I who fell into the water. One of our friends was thrown off, pulled under the raft and came out without her helmet. Another one was stuck under the raft and said she felt like she was going to die. She was in tears. Many people were shaken up by what happened but we said to one another, “God is in control. He is going to protect us.” We decided to pray as a team. Of course our guides were completely calm. They didn’t seem fazed at all! This was normal to them.

I was NOT excited to keep going but there was no other way home. In my heart, I prayed, “Lord! Please, please, don’t let that happen again! You know how afraid I am. I don’t want to fall in again.” I didn’t act that afraid in front of the others because I didn’t want to add to the drama, but I was scared.

As we progressed down the river, I asked our guide if we had passed the worst parts. He said, “No, we still have level four rapids coming up.”

Yikes! I felt like throwing up. But, I chose to remember that I had asked God for protection. Everytime I started praying, I felt peace. I was still nervous but somehow I knew that God was going to answer my prayer. In the back of my mind, I was also thinking, why in the world did we choose to do this team building activity during this time of the year, which the guides said is the most hazardous time?! Did anyone ocular the dangers evolved?!

As I continued praying, I forgot to pray for Edric! And sure enough, at the longest stretch of rapids, he flew out of the raft. For the first time, our guide seemed concerned. He had a look of shock on his face. I yelled out, “Edric! Where is Edric?!” Yes, I was panicking! This part of the river had more rocks and the current was even stronger! There was no still water for a while. Thank God his head finally popped up above the water.

However, the raft I was in could not stop for him and we were about to come up against a pretty big drop. “Row forward! Row hard! Row harder!,” our guide commanded. We couldn’t wait for Edric. He had to be rescued by a guide who was following us on a red kayak.

When we lost Edric, fear started to grip me in a new way. Edric and I were front rowers on our raft (which I will not volunteer for again). Without him across from me, I felt alone. Everytime our raft bounced up and down on the water, I had the scariest view of the rapids. I wanted him to be there so badly to feel safe. And every time I thought of Edric being gone from our raft I was worried. He has always been my “knight in shining armor.” And he had said before we got on our rafts, “I will always rescue you.” He couldn’t do that now. And where was he, anyway?! Was he okay?

At this point I learned another valuable lesson. Our sense of security cannot revolve around our spouse or people. Ultimately, our sense of security has to be anchored on God. Finally, I said, “Lord, I get it! You want me to depend on you and you alone!” So, I just kept praying inside like a mad woman and we finally made it through to the end without any more “casualties.”

Where in the world was Edric? I saw the small red kayak coming down the river, braving the last part of the rapids. Edric was sitting on it, upright, and just fine. It was a beautiful site! Praise God!

My appreciation level and love for him was at all time high! Whatever resentment I initially had towards him about telling our guide to make us capsize, went away. I was so thankful that he was okay and that we were standing on land together.

The first thing he showed me when he walked up onto shore was that his ring finger was missing his wedding ring. At that point, I didn’t care. That wedding ring had sentimental value to us because he had it customized in Israel, but facing a life-threatening situation made me consider what is really important. Material things seemed so inconsequential.

This brings me to my final lesson. I began to see a parallel between what we went through and eternity. Getting to the end of the rapids and stepping on to shore felt like heaven to me. I was so happy to be away from the river, it’s twists and turns, all the rocking, unpredictable drops and precarious whirlpools. Sure, there were moments of calm and stillness that were great to paddle through, but towards the latter part, I was just tired of the paddling. I wanted it all to be over so I could be back on land!

Each one of us will have a customized set of hardships to face in this life. God knows what we can and cannot handle. And his purpose is the same. He wants to take us from faith to greater faith, to build and strengthen our character, and to ready us for his kingdom. Our part is to stay the course that will take us “Home” and persevere until the end. Revelation 21:4 says, ‘”He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’” It wasn’t until I was safely on shore that I felt relaxed and completely relieved. The feeling was incredible!

However, my joy was not complete until I saw Edric walk up on to shore to me. And then I looked around and saw that everyone was there. Our rafts arrived at different times but we all stepped out safely onto land.

We are saved!

 

Everyone is okay!

What about someday?, I thought. Will it be the same? Will all the people I love and know be in heaven? Will anyone be missing?

When my grandmother passed away some years ago, my grandfather said to her, “Kitty, you have a one way ticket to heaven and you are going there ahead of me. But I will see you there.”

I want to be able to say “I will see you there” to everyone I know and love. God used this on-the-rocks-experience to remind me of the One True Rock — Jesus Christ, the Rock of My Salvation. Am I telling people about Him? Or am I so busy paddling myself to shore and so preoccupied with my own concerns?

When we got back to the Crocodile Park to return all our gear, I said, “Hon, maybe you should share the gospel with our guide.” But he had already been planning to do so. So after we all took our showers, he went up to him and said, “Do you ever feel afraid when you are out on the rapids? What if something were to happen? Have you ever thought of the possibility that you could die out there?” Our guide said, “I do get afraid.”

Edric asked him if he wanted to know how to overcome this fear. Our guide was willing to listen. So Edric proceeded to share that God promises to give us eternal life through His son, Jesus. He shared with him John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” He also told our guide that he could have a personal relationship with Jesus by believing in him and making him his Savior and Lord. In the end, Edric prayed with and for our guide.

We may not be able to tell every single person in the world about Jesus but we can start by telling the people God has put right in front of us and around us.

Will I ride the rapids again? Probably not any time soon and maybe even never! But I can take the spiritual lessons I learned and let them make a difference in my life over and over again until I am HOME.

How Pushy Should You Be?

I never wanted to be an annoying pushy parent that forces her kids to do things they don’t want to, but I’ve always known that there has to be a balance. Between overindulgent and pushy, I would almost rather be pushy. But, I believe there is a middle ground from which a parent can manage the tension of these opposites.

Pushy parents have admirably produced children who excel in academics, sports, and the arts. But these excellent children aren’t always happy about the choices that have been made for them or the manner in which they were pushed. And a lot of times, the pushing strains the relationship between parent and child or the kids burn out. Come to think of it, even the parents burn out, too.

On the other end of the spectrum are children who are over-indulged. Parents cater to their emotional fragility and allow them to do and act as they please. They avoid failure or get used to being rescued from consequences. When they face discomfort, they are allowed to back-out. In the end, they never quite grow up to master their emotions or develop the will power to aim for excellence.

It is so easy to swing to either side when you are a parent. But the most important thing to remember is to focus on character instruction. Character determines true excellence. But this kind of instruction requires supernatural empowerment from the Lord and good teamwork with your spouse!

Edric’s involvement in the lives of our kids has been so crucial. He is the leader of our family and first and foremost, he is a spiritual leader. Once a week, he has a family devotion where we will discuss a character trait and memorize a verse to live by for the rest of the week. Because Edric has taken charge of what character trait to teach, this allows me to focus on reinforcing the trait during the week. I provide the support. It helps so much that we work as a team to encourage our children to “grow in wisdom, stature, favor with God and man.” (Luke 2:52) And we get the entire household to be on the same page. No one is supposed to sabotage the character trait by acting and behaving in contradictory ways to it.

The more we prioritize character training, the easier it is to get our children to respond to everything else. Last night was a good example of this reality. Edric has been teaching determination and diligence these past two weeks for our family devotions. So when we all went running as a family (sans our baby girl, Tiana), Edric and I got to see determination and diligence in action. We were only supposed to take the two older boys but our three year old couldn’t stand to be left at home while his brothers did something seemingly fun. He had no idea we were going to make him run a considerable distance for his little self.

At first, my three year old was ecstatic. After a few meters, he joyfully exclaimed, “I like this!” About a hundred meters later he said, “I want to go home.” His face was red like a tomato and he was breathing heavily, but we had hardly gone anywhere!

It was time to “push.”

“I’m sorry, honey, but you said you wanted to come and we are going to finish our run. You can do it.” I was reassuring but I was firm. Both Edric and I knew this was going to be the perfect application for diligence and determination.

After the first kilometer, the same son was panting even more and said, “I can’t do this, mommy.” And our second son started saying, “Ouch, ouch!” because he was getting a cramp. My goodness, I thought to myself, these boys are too urbanized. They need to develop hardiness! More than ever, I wanted them to finish.

So I said, “You guys can do it! We will all finish and then we can go home.” I took my youngest son’s his hand and that helped a bit. He knew that Edric and I were set on following through with what we started, so he kept up. Even our second son who suffered from cramping, kept going.

After the second kilometer, the kids were still running. “Remember our lesson on determination, boys!, Edric would call out. And they would pick up their pace.

While nearing the third kilometer, my youngest son again said, “I have to stop, mommy.”

I looked at him, assessed the seriousness of the situation, and said, “Nope, we are going to keep going. You can do it! You are doing so well! We are almost home.” He was fighting the urge to cry but the “almost home” bit of info got him motivated again and he still kept running. They all kept running until we got close enough to home to do a cool down walk.

My three year old was relieved and so very proud of himself. Our second son managed to endure his pain and ran even further than we suggested. Our eldest son, whose endurance is much better, did great. Edric and I were so blessed by all of them, especially since this run was a first for our younger boys. We complimented them profusely.

Why did we push them? For the sake of character development. At a certain point in our mini run it might have actually seemed cruel that we made them keep going. However, we wanted our kids to experience a small victory that evening — finishing. We knew that allowing them to quit and back-out would contradict our instruction about diligence and determination.

Well, it turned out that all the pushing paid off in the end because they felt a real sense of personal accomplishment. It may have been a small thing in the grand scheme of things, but little victories such as these help to strengthen the willpower of our children to push themselves to be better and do better.

How do we know how much pushing is too much? The more time we spend with our children, the more we understand what they can and cannot do, and the more we know what is going on inside their hearts. More importantly, the more time we spend with the Lord, the more he exposes any wrong motivation and selfish intent on our part as parents. And as we seek his will for our kids, the more we know how to best parent our children and navigate them towards excellence, to be who God wants them to be.

Ephesians 6:4 “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”

The Tender Conscience

Edan confessed to peeking inside the box of Christmas presents that was in our bedroom. We were at the table having lunch when he burst out into tears and said, “I looked inside the box,” sobbing between each word. The box contained the kids’ toys and other gifts for people. Edan knew the contents of the box were supposed to be a secret because I had not wrapped anything yet.

When Edric and I realized he was making a public confession , Edric took him to a separate room to talk so he would not be embarrassed.

When they came back to the table, I asked Edan what he did. He said that he and Tiana (our 1 year old) were in our bedroom. Tiana was playing with the flaps of the box and left them open. When Edan saw that the box was slightly open, he peeked inside and saw some of the toys he and his brothers were going to get for Christmas. When I asked him why he cried, he said, “I thought that I was going to get a spanking.”

I said, “You told the truth and I am proud of you for being honest even if you were afraid.” Edric had apparently told him the same thing in private. And I added, “It’s just too bad that you know what you are going to get and you won’t be surprised.”

Edan asked for forgiveness and of course all was forgiven. His troubled spirit was replaced by peace.

But I was curious about something –his motivation for being truthful. I asked him, “Why did you tell the truth if you knew you might get a spanking?” I wondered why Edan, as a five year old, was willing to risk painful discipline for the sake of integrity.

He replied, “I knew that I should tell the truth.”

“But why should you tell the truth?” I prodded.

“Because it is the right thing to do.” He answered.

I pushed further and asked, “Why is it the right thing to do?”

“Because it makes Jesus happy,” he said with all sincerity.

I paused for a bit to gain composure because I was so blessed by his heart. I was hoping he would say that.

This was one of those treasured moments for me as a mom. I got a glimpse of Edan’s Christianity — his genuine desire to do what is pleasing to God, not out of coercion or pressure but because he has a personal relationship with him.

My kids are still young but I pray that as they begin well they will follow through to the end. May the Lord keep their consciences tender and sensitive to righteousness, and may they live with integrity even if it is costly!

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Different, but Still in Love!

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Edric, the kids and I spent this past Monday in Tagaytay with my side of the family. The kids had a blast with their cousins, and as adults, we enjoyed our bonding time. We had dinner at the Highlands China Palace and the food was fantastic, as usual.

One of the things we often enjoy as a family is having extended conversations after dinner. We like to linger in each others’ company and exchange insights, ideas, tell jokes and stories, and we learn a lot from my parents. My dad almost always leaves us with a word of wisdom. He tries to make the most of life-on-life mentoring by using meal time as an opportunity to disciples us.

The evening’s discussion turned to the topic of managing emotions. We asked my dad a question that went something like this, “How should a person handle negative emotions. For example, if a husband has a bad day and comes home? Is it okay to be upset around your family and be moody or irritable? Should your family be understanding about your feelings?”

My dad answered this by saying,”When a person comes home, no matter what his day was like, he must remember that he is coming home to the most important people in the world. The most important people deserve the best treatment. I’ve always thought of my home as a sanctuary.” And he added, “That’s why I did not come home irritated, grumpy, or moody.”

It might seem unrealistic, but I don’t ever recall my dad coming home temperamental or upset. He was always excited to see the family, especially my mom. He was also very even-tempered about people, circumstances, and untoward happenings. My dad wasn’t the type to panic, lose his cool, or be pressured. I know he fought alot of “battles” out in the real world as a man because he and mom would communicate with each other and with us about them, but he didn’t bring home a negative spirit. And this goes back to the fact that he was a spirit-filled person, really walking with the Lord.

At this point, Edric asked with a smirk, “Dad, what do you do if the stress comes from the home or someone in the home?” I knew what he was alluding to and we both laughed out loud. In other words I think Edric was trying to say, “What if your wife stresses you out?” Ha ha ha. Well, my dad replied, “You always need to have the right perspective. Perspective is so important because it will help you to process your emotions. When I feel like getting upset with people or circumstances, I think about what is causing me to be upset. I meditate on what the appropriate response should be — the God-honoring response. I count my blessings. I choose to be grateful and thankful, especially when I realize that what I am upset about is not a big deal.” (I am paraphrasing some of this because I don’t remember the verbatim, but this is the essence.)

He also said, “And recently, after meeting Joni Eareckson Tada and hearing her life story, I was reminded once again how much I have to be thankful for.”

My parents met well-known speaker and author, Joni, during their last trip to the U.S. Her story is a testament to the fact that God has a purpose for everything that happens in our lives. When she was a teenager she had a freak accident that turned her into a quadriplegic. But she has used her story to bless the world and glorify God. If there was anyone who deserved to wallow in negative emotions it would be her, but my dad said she is an amazingly positive person, radiating with joy.

Listening to my dad share these things convicted Edric and I, and everyone else at the table. The reality is we don’t always have a spiritual perspective on people and circumstances, and at times, we let negative emotions into the sanctuary that is home and hurt the most important people in the world.

But, I think that of all the people at the table, Edric and I had to apply what my dad shared the most. If there is anything that we don’t see eye to eye on, it is how to deal with emotions. As a passionate and intense person, Edric feels both positive and negative emotions to a much greater extent than I do. When he is enjoying something, he is like a person on fire and he is the most fun, entertaining person to be with. But when he is feeling down, it’s like there’s a visible gray cloud over his head.

Over the years, he has practiced being spirit-filled, and is able to snap out of his negative emotions much faster and process what’s going on in a more productive way. However, from time to time, I will react to the way he deals with his feelings. I know that it probably sounds like such a small deal — a husband’s “from-time-to-time-irritation,” when so many people out there have bigger marital problems to deal with. And this is an area I need to work on. I can be too sensitive about negativity because of my upbringing. In my home, as a kid, everything seemed sort of “sunshiney” and “light-heartedy.” Home was a very positive, affirming environment where people kept short accounts with one another. No one lingered in their irritation or frustrations, conflict was resolved quickly, and we were not allowed to be moody…ever…not even if the ladies in the house were going through their “cycle.” My mom always said, “You need to be controlled by the Holy Spirit. Moodiness is selfishness.”

When Edric and I got married, I saw how differently we processed our feelings. He was perplexed by me and I was perplexed by him. He didn’t understand how I could easily get over something that frustrated me. I, on the other hand, really liked that Edric was a motivated, eager, romantic, and passionate person, but couldn’t understand how things like heat, hunger, or traffic could make him irritable.

God used marriage to deal with alot of things in my heart. He revealed to me areas where I needed to improve. My problem was I didn’t feel like respecting Edric when he was irritable or emotional. In fact, I would try to correct him and point out that he was wrong, almost always at the worst possible time. The Bible says in Ephesians 5:33 “…Each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” God will hold a husband accountable for being loving towards his wife, but God will hold a wife accountable for respecting her husband.

Even if my intentions are good when I am trying to help him to change, my reactive-ness toward Edric is not respectful. And it isn’t even effective. God often has to remind me that it is not my mission to change my husband. That is God’s department. I need to focus more on my role as a wife and have a lot of areas to improve in.

Matthew 7:3 says, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”

Early on in marriage, I learned that praying for Edric instead of reacting to him is more effective. The times when I have stepped aside to let God work on Edric, he transforms! In fact, over the years he has become an even more wonderful husband — more loving, positive, and spirit-filled. We still have our tensions and issues, but marriage gets better every year.

After our time at the restaurant ended, Edric took my hand as he often does and we walked back to the car. “I liked what Dad shared,” he said. “It was practical and it made a lot of sense. I’m going to apply it…” I smiled and hugged him.

When Edric said his marriage vows to me, he never promised to be a perfect husband, but he promised that he would always be willing to change. After ten years of marriage, I can attest to the fact that he has kept that promise. We still live with our differences but by God’s grace, we are still in love!