Archives for April 2012

Nice Surprises

The kids had a fashion shoot last February. It was an unexpected but timely blessing. Right after mounting a couples retreat, we were given an overnight, all expense paid stay at Pico de Loro Resort. I finally grabbed a copy of Smart Parenting Magazine’s April 2012 issue and saw the kids’ photos. It was a wonderful reminder that the Lord gives gifts to his children. After a crazy January, it was a nice surprise.

Our kids were not even the first choice. Apparently, the kids that had been picked had a conflict in schedule because of exam week. When one of the editors asked if our kids were free, Edric and I talked about it and agreed to let our kids do it. Of course our kids didn’t have exams to worry about. (Yet another pro for homeschooling!)

I want to thank the Lord for being a God who delights to bless. Who are we that he is mindful of us? He knows the longings of our hearts. I wanted our family to be able to get away and do something special. Since it was Elijah’s and Edan’s birthdays within just weeks of each other, a beach trip was the perfect way to celebrate. Only he could have orchestrated events and circumstances in the way that they happened to customize a vacation for us!

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained; What is man that You take thought of him,
And the son of man that You care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God,
And You crown him with glory and majesty! O LORD, our Lord,
How majestic is Your name in all the earth
! (Psalm 8:3-5, 9 NASB)

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A Little Bit of Heaven

It’s been a wonderful week of bonding with my brothers and sisters. We are complete as a family — four sets of married siblings with ten children between us, a sister who is about to be married, and my parents.

Being able to reconnect and fellowship means alot to all of us because it does not happen often. (Two of my siblings live in the US.) So this week we have maximized every moment – sports, games, sharing meals, walks, conversations around the table, shopping, etc.

I am grateful to my parents for the bond that exists between us siblings. Our spouses also get along so well. It seems that everyone fits together like a glove. Looking back, dad and mom did two very important things when we were growing up. First, they made family time a priority and they made it fun. As children, we spent the majority of each day with one another.

Secondly, they introduced us to Jesus and discipled us individually and collectively. The most common denominator we share till this day is our faith in Jesus Christ. He has been the center of our family, holding it together through the years, preserving the bond of unity, helping us to love one another and forgive hurts and offenses. It is this spiritual connection that keeps us close despite the physical separation and different life stages we are in.

Personally, I feel that our family reunions give me a foretaste of heaven — the joy, completeness, security, and connectedness. (Of course, heaven will be more about Jesus than anything else.)

I remember that people used to say, “Your family is not normal, most people don’t have families like that.” And I had to talk to my dad about this because I felt bad, like it was a negative thing to have a good family. So I said something like this, “Dad, people don’t think our family is normal because we don’t really have relationship issues, our home is happy, and we all get along so well.” Then he replied with a statement that really struck me. “That is NORMAL, hon. God designed families to be that way.”

In other words, there was and is nothing unique about our family. We simply applied biblical principles for family relationships. As a result, one of the blessings has been that till this day, we enjoy each other’s company immensely.

This doesn’t mean that we don’t have our discussions, varying opinions, or that our children never provoke or incite each other. But by God’s grace, there is no bitterness, unresolved hurt, or anger. When we get together, we share a whole lot of laughter and meaningful dialogue. The relational atmosphere is light and easy.

One day, I hope that we will not have to live so far apart. Till then, I am reveling in this little bit of heaven!

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Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:31, 32 NASB)

To Become A Man

I was sitting at a desk pulling string off an old shoe when my 9 year old son, Elijah, came into the room.

“What’s this, mom?” he asked holding up the string.
“You can have it and play with it.” (I said this because my kids do play with things like rocks, paper, pieces of string, empty boxes and the like from time to time).
But he replied with a smile, “I am not a kid anymore, mom.”
“Then what are you?” I asked playfully.
“A young man” was his confident reply. This self-proclaimed definition surprised me.
“Who told you that?”
“Dad told me.”

A couple of days later, out of curiosity, I followed up with the question, “Do you know what a teenager is?” His initial answer was, “A teenager is someone who turns 13.” But right after, he quickly said, “Dad told me we don’t really believe in that because when a young man turns 13, he is a man.” I didn’t realize that Edric had conversed with Elijah about this topic, but I was thankful that he did.

This dialogue reminded me of a scene in the movie, Courageous. A group of fathers were gathered around a table and they asked each other, “When did you know you were a man?” One of them answered, “When my dad told me.”

Boys need to have their masculinity affirmed by their fathers. It matters when a dad tells a son, “You are a man now so be the man that God wants you to be.” It matters when fathers communicate to their sons that childish ways must be put aside and entrust them with responsibility.

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But to become that man, a father must be present to guide, nurture, exemplify, and affirm his son’s manhood. I believe that boys are male, anatomically speaking, but manhood must be defined by fathers for their sons. My dad did this for my brothers. When I asked him one time, “How do boys learn to be men?” His reply was, “Teach them to assume responsibility for their choices.”

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Well, Edric and I have some years to go before any of our sons are men but I pray that we can raise sons who glorify God and fulfill their God-ordained purposes. Only by your grace, Lord!

When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. (1 Corinthians 13:11 NASB)

A Life of Rest, A Life of No Limits

Marriage, parenting, ministry, work, pretty much every relationship and every thing I do have taught me one thing about myself — I am not enough. God, on the other hand, is infinite and limitless and desires that we live a limitless life — an abundant life.

Marriage and parenting, above all other preoccupations of a person, seem to fast-track you towards that point of recognition…a recognition that there is a “cap” on your capacity.

For example, I am crazy about my kids, but sometimes when my children act up, pout, whine, get moody, or they become wild and noisy, I really feel like “I can’t take it!” I want to run to my room, lock the door and let the madness and mayhem magically disappear. Of course that doesn’t happen. I imagine this plan of escape in my mind but the reality is I have to stand there, in the middle of it all, and be teacher, disciplinarian, instructor and lovingly patient mom. If you are a mom, you know what I mean. And you know, as I do, that too many days like these can drive you crazy!

There have also been occasions in my life when I have gotten knocked over by one unfortunate event after another. At the beginning of January 2012, I experienced a collision of so many big and small disturbances, I ran out of emotional storage space. It was a hodgey-podgey mix of disappointments, hurts, failures, realizations, and fears that were all poured into one cauldron. I simply did not have the capacity to sift through the gook to remain emotionally level-headed. In other words, I reached Joy Mendoza’s maximum capacity limit to cope and I became emotionally fragile. I was an overly sensitive wife, an irritable mom, reluctant in my service for God and restless in spirit. What was wrong with me?

I found the answer during the leadership conference in our church. This conference came at the right time, in just the right way. Speaker, Edmund Chan, talked about the idea of rest in the presence of God. Rest…such a wonderfully sweet word that seems elusive in our present age. So much of the world we know today is noisy, busy, harried, instant, and stress-inducive. But I learned an invaluable truth that weekend. Rest is found in the presence of God.

Psalm 46:10 says “be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Edmund Chan explained that being still is different from keeping still. It means “loosen up, cut the slack. Seize striving.” Striving from what? “The worries, anxieties, the churning within. We want a quick search but God calls us to a quiet search. We tend to exert effort and scheme to gain control. But the more we try to scheme, the more we lose a sense of Gods presence.”

I have seen this played out in my own relationship to Edric. When we have conflict and I want to win, prove my point, or insist on my way and perspective, it leads to fighting and hurt. But when I go to God and ask, “Please be the one to help us fix this or please be the one to speak to my husband. Please help us to make the right decision,” I feel a different kind of peace. It is about letting go of what I want and opening up my heart to God’s best solution. It’s about recognizing that circumstances and relationships are part of God’s plan to transform my character. There are no accidents when God is at the “wheel.” But when I am, it’s disastrous!

Psalm 46:9 reveals to us that the context of Psalm 46:10 was war. And this is the amazing thing about being in God’s presence. We can find rest in the Lord even if the circumstances around us are turbulent. Chan encouraged the audience to spend time listening to God. The purpose of stillness, according to him, is to hear and know God. And the best way to know what God has to say is to go to his Word, where he has already spoken.

When I am frustrated with my wonderful husband, I remember that the Bible says, “submit to your husband and respect him.” (Ephesians 5) And when I don’t feel like doing this, I remember that it also says, “God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5)

I used to think that the spirit-filled life was about asking the spirit to “fill me” everyday. But Chan explained that it is “not about how filled I am with the Holy Spirit but how much the Spirit has of me.” It boils down to my responses of obedience when I am still and listening to God’s voice, revealed in his word. It is to prefer Gods will, to know that it is best and not just to perceive and pursue Gods will. And then to rest in God’s will.

Furthermore, a real test of whether or not I am in the presence of God is if I am able to say, “Lord, thank you. Thank you for my husband, my children, people around me and circumstances that are helping me become the person you want me to be.”

It is no accident that I am married to a husband whose language of love is to be served when that is not my language of love. It’s no accident that he is a passionate, intense person who helps me to care more and have higher standards for excellence. It’s no accident that I have four children with different personalities who are teaching me that I don’t know much about parenting or teaching. It’s no accident that I have unfulfilled dreams and longings that matter to God but that he has not yet answered (or may never.)

I learned from a friend that we must come to that point of saying, “This is necessary. This profitable.”

What matters is that I remain in the presence of God. Moses understood this. In Exodus 33:14- 17, we catch a glimpse of his relationship with God. Here he was trying to lead an obstinate, massive,and complaining group of people. (Hmm…does that sound like parenting sometimes?) He could have easily given up and said, “Forget it!” But he knew the secret of a truly success leader. He knew he couldn’t lead these people on his own strength, knowledge, energy, or credentials. What was most important to him was that God would be among him and the people.

He (God) said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.” Then he (Moses) said to Him, “If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here. For how then can it be known that I have found favor in Your sight, I and Your people? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we, I and Your people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth?” The LORD said to Moses, “I will also do this thing of which you have spoken; for you have found favor in My sight and I have known you by name.” (Exodus 33:14-17 NASB)

Lord, help me to remain in your presence so that I can live a limitless life!

Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you;
He will never allow the righteous to be shaken. (Psalm 55:22 NASB)

I thought these photos of the boys were a good example of how we ought to rest in the Lord…

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