Date with My Boys

After giving a seminar Thursday morning, I took my two older sons out for a lunch date. They always enjoy these moments when they have my undivided attention and we get to bond with one another. (Edric’s version is to play sports with them, have man to man talks, or go to the barber shop to get their hair cut.)

Before we even settled into our chairs, Elijah was like, “So what are we going to talk about? I really like this, mom…” He started rambling. Edan was his usual cool and calm himself, quiet and reserved.

After we ordered our food and settled down, I asked them, “How can I improve as a mom?” This question is always a good starting point to get my boys to open up and be receptive to me.

Elijah shared that I HAVE improved with my temper. Whew! He said, “You are very patient now and you don’t snap anymore. I can tell when you are irritated but you don’t get angry.”

Edan took a longer while to share. He is my reflective thinker. Midway through our lunch, he began to open up. “Oh, I know what you can improve on, mom. When dad calls you, you should go right away. And, when we are playing board games, you shouldn’t have your IPad or be distracted so you can focus on the game.”

There are instances when Edric calls me and I dilly-dally because I am preoccupied with my own thing. Edric does not like this. And the kids have noticed it, too. That’s got to change. As for the board games…Honestly, I don’t like to play board games! I do it for my kids and Edric because it is family time. But, more often than not, I multi-task by getting on the Internet or writing. Edan was right, I need to be engaged and full present.

20130130-090904.jpg

20130130-090914.jpg
As we conversed some more, I also asked them what they can improve on. Voluntarily, they addressed their own areas of weakness. Elijah admitted that he has to be more focused and Edan said he had to eat his meals faster. We discussed their observations for a bit and then I also encouraged them to proactively include Titus in their activities and not to isolate him. Sometimes, he gets left out and this really hurts his feelings.

Prior to this lunch date, Elijah was already making a more conscious effort to be kind to Titus. “Titus, you are always included. Anytime you want to join, you can, okay?” He would say this in the context of their play. As a result, Titus became very affectionate with Elijah — hugging him and wanting to be near him. Titus is my hugger.

Edan, on the other hand, is still learning to work through his differences with Titus. Being the very methodical, organized person that he is, Titus’ anything-goes-personality tends to clash with his. But he is trying harder.

We had a great time talking, laughing, and just being together. There is something special about taking my children out on a date. It sends a message to them that they are important and that I like them (which is different than just loving them). For example, I love people but I really like being with certain people. In the same way, I love my children but I want each of them to know I really like them; I prefer their company; and getting to know them is a priority to me.

Children are incredibly discerning. They can differentiate between knowing they are loved and feeling absolutely certain they are loved. Of course they prefer the latter. Who doesn’t?

I used to know that God loves me in the head because I grew up in a Christian home and learned about faith and Jesus, but it wasn’t until I really began a relationship with Jesus and grew in intimacy with him that I was absolutely certain that he loved me. I not only knew it, I felt it and experienced it. And it motivated me to pursue holiness, righteousness, obedience, and live to please him.

Similarly, most children KNOW their parents love them. Well-meaning parents provide for and meet their physical needs, and make choices “for their good.” However, this doesn’t always fill a child’s longing for acceptance and secure attachment. Neither does it cause a child to take on the values of a parent or make a child internally motivated to obey and please them.

Edric and I are discovering that even homeschooling is not enough. Homeschooling makes us connect with our kids very often but each one of them needs one-on-one attention and shepherding. They have different personalities, struggles, and needs. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to parenting them.

I like what Elijah told me about one-on-one time, “I like to be with you to talk about life and things that I can’t talk about in public. There are some things that I want to talk about that are personal. And when I get to do that I feel more relaxed and less stressed. I really feel loved when you want to be with me.”

Who would ever think that a 9 year old has to deal with “stress”?! Yet it is interesting to have conversations with him and realize he is plagued by doubts and pressures; that there are circumstances that trouble him and he needs us to come along side him to point him in the right direction.

I think it is such a privilege to be parent. What a precious stewardship. One day, I dream of hearing God say, well done, good and faithful mom! I gave you Elijah, Edan, Titus, Tiana and coming-soon-baby, and you led them to Me.

But I often have to ask myself, Am I doing my best? Am I being the kind of mom that my children need to know and love God? Do I prioritize my children? Have I embraced motherhood as the most important job I have at this life stage?

It’s humbling and challenging to journey through the stages of parenting and realize, year after year, that Edric and I don’t always know what we are doing and we don’t always get it right. What worked for one child may not necessarily yield the same results in another. We are perpetually dependent on the the Lord for wisdom, creativity, insight, and patience. As we walk with him, he is our teacher. He shows us how to apply his parenting principles but customize them for each of our kids.

And one very effective way of ministering to our children is setting aside intentional moments to be with them. It makes our children more responsive to discipleship. It also allows us to get to know them personally and uncover attitudes and heart issues that need prayer.

At the end of the day, we invest in time, teaching, training, bonding, listening, and laughing together with our children to pass on a godly legacy that they can pass on to their own children. It is for this reason that God made us parents and gave us the four precious children that we have. As Psalm 78 says, We will not conceal them from their children, but tell to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and His strength and His wondrous works that He has done. For He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers that they should teach them to their children, that the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, that they may arise and tell them to their children, that they should put their confidence in God and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments…(Psalms 78:4-7 NASB)

20130130-091655.jpg

Excellent Homeschool Article by Forbes.com

Edric shared this article with me yesterday. It is worth reading if you are a homeschooler or curious about homeschooling…Want To Tell The State To Stick It? Homeschool Your Kids!

Saved From Megamall Mayhem!

The craziest thing happened to Edric and I and my older brother, Peter, this evening. We left a meeting at Shangrila Edsa and skipped out on dinner there to be with our kids who were all staying at my parents’ house. On the way towards the car, we passed by SM Megamall to pick up some food. Actually, we ordered a bunch of things starting with the grocery area in the ground floor where Edric bought a Shwarma and hotdog, then on towards the basement where we went to get Inasal chicken. Peter got barbecue, too. Both restaurants were practically side by side. While we we waiting for these orders, we dropped by The Sandwhich Guy and got some potatoes and a sandwich. It was like a progressive take-out dinner.

However, about ten minutes later, people started screaming and running in the direction of building A. At first we thought it was a celebrity sighting so we just sat there calmly, chatting away. But Edric and Peter noticed that there was a look of panic in people’s eyes that was disconcerting. Why were they all running? What were they running away from? And even more bizarre, why were all the stores and restaurants locking down their doors? Hey, what about our food?!

Okay, so we thought maybe it was a fire. Nobody seemed to know the real cause of all the panic. Someone said gunman, another said gibberish, the guards looked clueless. We didn’t want to leave the food we had ordered so Edric and Peter knocked on the doors of the restaurants we bought food from and asked them for our chicken meal and barbecue. Once we got that, we were all set. We started to make our way towards the exit facing Bank Drive. People were still running from something. I was eating my potatoes because I was hungry. And I didn’t want to run while eating potatoes.

As we passed by each store, people were peering out the glass windows or hiding inside. Hmm…so very odd. There was obviously something very wrong. When we got to the food court area, there was more screaming and frantic running. At this point, Edric and Peter did get a little bit concerned. All the escalators had been shut down. It was lock-down mode and the entire Megamall was being evacuated, except for those who were stuck inside the stores and restaurants. They were not allowed to leave.

Fortunately, we made it to the stairs going up to National Bookstore at the ground level. As we were making our way up, Edric prayed for protection and safety from whatever was happening. The ground floor was unusually empty! One or two people were exiting the building with us and there was a SWAT team at the entrance, armed and ready for action. We were told to make our way out and we saw an entire block full of people who were staring at the building, anticipating some sort of action. No one was allowed to enter the mall and there was a perimeter that was established to keep people away from the entrance.

Well this was exciting. What on earth?! I was so glad we got out and back to our children safely. We found on later on that there had been a gang robbery at the department store. Shots were fired but no one was hurt. The robbery happened just minutes after we bought our food at the grocery, on the same floor, in the SM department store adjacent to it. Had we been just a few minutes delayed, we might have been part of the mass panic that ensued. Instead, we were sitting down in the basement at The Sandwich Guy with no clue…Edric eating his grilled cheese and me with my potatoes, and both of us drinking Mountain Dew (Nice…that actually rhymes!).

God spared us from all the drama by keeping us unaware of the details until we were safely in the car, going down Edsa. Edric checked out the twitter feeds about it from those who had seen more of the action and those who were trapped inside the stores.

Sitting in the car, the three of us talked about how it was such a blessing that my sister-in-law, Jennifer, had not been with us. Peter and his wife just moved here from New York and she admitted that she would have freaked out if she had been in the mall when it all happened. She left the mall ten minutes before all the chaos.

My realization: It doesn’t matter where you live or where you are. There is no safe place apart from being in the center of God’s will. And our only security and protection is the Lord. Nothing happens apart from his election and he is in absolute control.

I praise God no civilians were hurt, and I praise God for keeping us safe tonight and everyday that he does!

For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways. (Psalms 91:11 NASB)

Rappler’s Report on the Megamall Shooting

20130126-233245.jpg
SM Megamall entrance after we exited. If you look closely, you will see the SWAT dudes stationed near the doors.

Retract the Claws

20130123-221320.jpg
Photo source:http://marvel.com/universe/X-23

All women have claws. Some have long fingernails in the literal sense (I prefer to keep mine short). But all of us for sure have those hidden, retractable ones — the Wolverine type of adamantium that can slice through, figuratively speaking, the bone and flesh of our enemies.

I certainly have them. I had to retract them the other night when I nearly took offense on behalf of my husband. Edric told me about an incident where he was bad mouthed publicly by someone, and of course, in the name of love, my anger was incited. I wanted to claw at this person, not physically, but I wanted to say all kinds of vile things to judge and criticize them. In fact, I began suggesting to Edric what he should say. And he had to tell me, “Relax babe.”

Hold on lady wolverine! I had to pause and consider the repercussions of taking offense for him. The Lord reminded me…what is your role? Have you been elected to be your husband’s defender? Encourage Edric to respond to this situation in a way that will glorify me. It is not an accident that this happened. I will use it for good. Okay, Lord, claws retracted.

Of course I can’t physically fight for Edric when he is wronged and he does not need that from me, but if I am not careful, I can develop a grudge or bitterness towards those who disturb his peace. And instead of thinking about how God can redeem the circumstance and turn it into a blessing, I can poison Edric’s heart with negative ideas that also make him embittered…kind of like a whispering Jezebel by his side.

20130123-221923.jpg
Well, at just the right time that evening, God got a hold of my thoughts and turned them towards Him — “in everything that you do, do it for the glory of God” was loud and clear. Edric eventually shared more of the story and asked me for my opinion on the matter. By then, I was in the spiritual condition to give him an unbiased perspective. At the end of our conversation, I encouraged him by saying, “Hon, just check your heart. Whatever way you respond to this person, the important thing is to make sure God is honored because you bear his name. Don’t allow the Evil One to take advantage of this situation so that people get turned off to Jesus.”

Edric already had the same conviction but he told me that my comments validated his desire to be thoughtful and concerned about God’s reputation. We prayed together and left the outcome to the Lord. The next day, Edric was able to talk with the person in a way that encouraged reconciliation and not retaliation.

I wanted to talk about this incident because most women are just like me. We are protective of those we love and we will viciously defend them. But, very often, God uses people problems to develop character, not just our own but our spouse’s, too. He also presents opportunities where we can highlight Jesus and respond in redemptive ways to persons who have wronged us so that He gets the glory.

If God is doing this kind of work in the life of my husband, I need to avoid being a wedge that thwarts that. I need to retract the claws and remember to be a helpmate and lifegiver to him. This means encouraging him towards Christlikeness, not in a preachy way but through words and actions that inspire him towards spiritual calm so that he can hear God’s voice. A female wolverine side kick is the last thing he needs when he is fired up about difficult people or circumstances.

More often than not, the more fruitful recourse has been for me to keep silent and just listen first, laying aside judgments and premature conclusions so that I understand the entire picture. Afterwards, Edric will usually ask me, “So what do you think, hon?” and I take that as my God-given opportunity to be a life-giver along side him. When I get it right and my response is spirit-led, Edric will thank me for helping him to do what pleases God. When I get it wrong, I end up feeding his anger or hurt in a destructive manner that causes more dissension between him and others.

The blessing is this: when we, as a couple, prioritize God’s agenda and not our own reputation, rights, or personal justice, He fights for us. The Bible says, The LORD will fight for you while you keep silent.” (Exodus 14:14 NASB)

I love this passage because Moses was about to lead the Israelites through the Red Sea and the Egyptians were closing in. As the people were starting to panic, he reminded them to be calm and trust in God. Let God be the deliverer that he is. He parted the Red Sea and the Israelites were saved.

Similarly, I need to learn to step aside and let God do what he does best — rescue, uphold, bless, prosper. He makes big and small miracles happen when I surrender people problems to him. It may not always be as dramatic as the parting of the Red Sea, but he certainly reminds me that he is present and at work to accomplish his plan and his purpose. No claws necessary!

That’s Grace!


IMG_8191

There are some days when I wonder how I am going to get through homeschooling my children. Titus and Tiana woke up with a bad cough (a cough that has lingered for several days). Titus threw up phlegm. My two older boys rolled out of bed in slow motion and walked about in slow motion.

I was waiting for them to finish their breakfast so we could get the day started, but they were all lingering around in their pajamas. I knew I would have to play the role of motivating mom. Honestly, I don’t like having to do this. It’s tiring.

I love it when they wake up, perky and alive, excited to learn. Well, the reality is, homeschooling goes through its ups and downs. Children get sick, moms get sick (and pregnant!), attitudes get in the way, spiritual issues have to be dealt with, and the kids need constant training, instruction, and discipline. In fact, homeschooling often feels like it is a character education not just for my kids, but for me. The obstacles and hurdles make me dig down deep and remember that I’m doing this in faith, not always knowing what’s going to happen next but confident that my equipper and sustainer is the Lord.

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. (James 1:2-3 NASB)

Endurance does bear fruit, and I hope in the fruit of all this labor – the days when the eyes of my children twinkle because they have overcome a task they thought they couldn’t do, when they progress through their material like bullet trains, when they make new discoveries and bubble over with creative inspiration, when they have insights about their relationship with God, or when they tell me, “I really like being with you, mom. Thanks for teaching me.” These moments do come and when they do, I’m re-charged and ready to go again.

I’ve had to come to terms with the reality that homeschooling is my cross to bear in this season of my life. It’s not the load that I mind so much as the self-denial it requires. Jesus says, “Pick up your cross daily, deny yourself and follow me.” It takes a whole lot of self-denial to homeschool. I have to deny the temptation to control my kids or to compare them with one another and with others. I have to deny my pride and tendency to take credit for their successes. I have to deny the doubts that plague me when I feel like, “Oh gosh, are they learning anything?” I have to deny my own comfort and liberties when I would rather do something else besides sit through a morning of teaching my children. I have to deny opportunities to serve myself and pursue my wants because homeschooling is the all-consuming lifestage that I am in, and I really don’t have time to do much else. I have to deny my own laziness when I want to lie down in bed and sleep because this pregnancy is tiring me out!

Just recently, I was having a conversation with playgroup moms about homeschooling. At one point, we were all talking about the difficulties we have to deal with. They said something like, “You are blessed because your children are smart. It’s easy to teach them.” This comment hit me on two levels — carnal and spiritual. Let me talk about the carnal first. I was a little bit hurt. It’s the same way I feel when people think my pregnancy is “easy” because I am not puking all the time. Sure, Joy is pregnant, but it’s nothing for her. It’s her fifth child. No biggie, she’s been there and done that before. She just pops them out. Well, I may not puke and my kids may not appear to be “struggling” learners, but homeschooling in our house is not always a postcard.

Good gracious! My kids have days when they act plain dumb. I mean, just this morning, Titus looked at the word “PET” and couldn’t read it. Really?! After finishing the entire Hooked on Phonics Kindergarten level so that he was proficiently reading four to five letter words and a bunch of sight words, and then he looks at me and says, “I don’t know that word?!” Was this a cruel joke? Did his cough give him a foggy brain? Did too much of the IPad over the weekend slow down his capacity to think?

My response was, “Okay, hon, we won’t homeschool today. You are not well and you should rest. But this also means that you won’t do Reading Eggs on the computer either. Your brain needs to take a break.” (Reading Eggs is a great phonics program which he was only entitled to access after he learned to read.) I meant well but he busted out into tears and then vomited out his phlegm because he kept crying. Lovely morning, eh? (You can refer to paragraph 1 about the vomit). I explained to him afterwards that I really wanted him to take it easy and get well. He was fine and spent some time playing with insect stickers instead.

Let me go on…Friday morning, Edan said, “I don’t want to do any work today.”

“Oh really? And what would you like to do?” I wanted to explore this.

“Nothing.”

Very calmly I replied, “Okay, you can do nothing. That’s fine with me. But this means you will stay home and do nothing while your brothers and sister go to playgroup and you will also do nothing when they watch a movie with their cousins tonight and have lots of fun. You can sit here and do nothing.”

“I will do my work,” was his quick conclusion. And he did. Whew.

IMG_8037

So, just to be clear, my kids are very normal.

On a spiritual level, the comment my playgroup friends made about my kids being EASY to teach humbled me. After all, Who am I? Who am I to have the circumstances that I do, the resources available to me, the husband, and the children that bring me so much joy? Yes, I think my kids are special, not because they are genetically superior but because they are God’s gifts to me. I don’t deserve them or any of his blessings. It is grace. God’s grace. If anyone should look upon my children and affirm their abilities or talents, the credit does not go to me, Edric, our kids, or even to homeschooling. Everything is by God’s grace alone.

The homeschooling experience doesn’t always come in a pretty package. Open this and your parenting will be successful! Open this and you will have brilliant children! If anyone feeds you advertisement like that about homeschooling, turn around and run away! It’s not true. Days like this are a very healthy reminder that homeschooling is an invitation to experience God’s grace more than it is an antidote to family and children issues.

The longer I homeschool, the more cognisant I am that it is not a cure-all solution. When it is esteemed as such, well that’s what you call idolatry. Much of the worrying and fretting, the panicking and impatience enters into my homeschooling when I want to manage all the outcomes and dictate the pace of my children’s learning or their maturity. On some days, God allows this to happen, but most of the time he shows me that I control nothing but my own responses and reactions to what he is doing in my life and the lives of my kids. This doesn’t mean that I don’t have goals, prepare lessons, or have a schedule for my kids. I believe in doing my part. But the results are always a testament, not to my ability to teach or train my children or the magic of the homeschooling experience, but to the grace of God.

Grace comes with contentment — contentment in my weaknesses. It was wonderfully coincidental that the first lesson the boys and I had together this morning was on the character of CONTENTMENT. I’m using a book by Ruth Younts called, Get Wisdom. She defines contentment as being satisfied because God is working everything together for my good and for his glory. The verse she gave as a reference was Philippians 4:11, I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.

This is exactly what I needed to deal with this morning’s slow start and my grumpy, sickly, not-all-there children. Contentment is accepting my children’s progress, the challenges, their not-so-shining moments, the waiting and hoping in the meantime, their uniqueness and limitations (as well as my own), and being able to truthfully say, “Lord, I thank you for causing all things to work together for the good of my children and myself that you might get the glory.” Only then comes the beautiful satisfaction in his grace. Only then does it look EASY.

Amazingly, we finished homeschooling by 11:30 am today with my children smiling at the end. How that happened is a wonder. But like I said, that’s grace!

Husbands and Their Cave Man Time

DSC01678

My husband, Edric, needs cave man time ever so often. This could mean an early morning bike ride with friends (or alone), hanging out with buddies to play strategy games or PS3, basketball on a Sunday afternoon, watching NBA or UFC on TV, isolating himself in a room so he can read, make plans, or meditate on scripture. I don’t even know where I got the phrase “cave man time” but basically it means his own space to do his own thing.

Most men I know are the same way – my father, brothers, in laws, friends, etc. Guys have particular things that they like to do to that recharge them emotionally and even spiritually. My dad can spend hours playing golf. He even thinks it cured him of Dengue years ago! He went out to play when he was feeling sick (and didn’t know he had Dengue) and claims that being outdoors and getting fresh air helped him significantly. Perhaps…

Over the years, I have learned to be understanding about Edric’s need for personal “me-time” or the need to be with other men, shoulder-to-shoulder to connect through activity.

Initially, I felt Edric’s guy stuff took him away from me and left me out. But I realized that it has nothing to do with wanting to get away from me. In fact, he will often call me while we are apart to tell me that he misses me and is thinking of me. It’s really about enjoying his cave man time so he is energized to get through another week.

Fortunately, Edric’s idea of fun doesn’t involve beer, bars or interests that give me cause to worry. So when he says, “I’m going to hang out with my cousin tonight” or “I’m going biking tomorrow with some friends” or “I’m playing ball this weekend,” I am happy for him. Go ahead, honey, knock yourself out. After all, he doesn’t do this every single day. His priorities are still clear – God, wife, kids, ministry/work. He makes it a point to invest a whole lot of quality and quantity time with the kids and me so we don’t feel deprived of his presence or attention. We feel secure in his affections toward us.

Edric also knows that I trust him. I know he loves the Lord and wants to please him so if he were to do anything that involves compromise, that’s between him and God. In the past, I have said, “Hon, if you want to sabotage your life or forfeit God’s blessings by doing something that displeases him that’s your choice. I know I can’t police you.” Even if I wanted to, I can’t keep Edric on a leash. (Husbands hate it when wives try to control them!)

If a husband wants to go off and do foolishness, God will surely deal with him, if not right away then later on. As wives, we can relax in the knowledge that the Lord keeps our men accountable for all their actions and he holds them responsible for their choices. Their position as head of the family is a sacred trust. Our role, as wives, is to pray for them, build them up, and encourage them towards Christ-likeness by our own behavior and love for the Lord.

Being at-rest and refraining from strangling or smothering my husband with neediness or manipulating him to always be and do what I want him to helps us to have a healthier, happier relationship. He appreciates being able to have his cave man time but at the end of the day, I am still his best friend and preferred companion. Yeah! He stills says, “I have the most fun with you.” Well, me too!

Proverbs 31:12 “She does him good and not evil all the days of her life.”

Letters Everywhere!

When my second son, Edan, was 2 years old, he was obsessed with letters. Until he was about 5, everything we bought him had to do with the alphabet. Whether it was magnetic letters, cut out letters, letter stickers, books about the alphabet, letter stencils, letter stamps, wooden letters to string…you name it, he had it. It was a positive obsession so we let him indulge in it. All this “exposure” to the alphabet made him a more interested reader and writer. He has since grown out of his letter fascination and develop varied interests. But that was a fun time. It was wonderful to be able to buy him presents that revolved around something educational.

As I was browsing through the internet, I came across all kinds of alphabet typography. None of these are my ideas or my copyright. I thought of putting some of my favorites here for you. They make me think of Edan. He would have loved these…

tumblr-lhcyn8u3od1qbycdbo1-500

il-fullxfull.66924650

for blog 1

brimfield-letters

bokstaver-2

15202263-hdtov3u1-c

6a00d8341ca70953ef0133f2921735970b-500wi

284571270173966258_TTDoWDij_c 229894755947923058_R5nCBLko_c 165436986281299608_8h2G9QlH_c 159033430561074147_6XZeopMp_c 153122456050108160_U9GiAFXW_c 153122456050097328_CqTjzix9_c 72620612710833998_CT2ThVQg_c 44473115039790274_m94QjRye_c 6a00d8341ca70953ef011571161e5a970c 6a00d8341ca70953ef010534aa5347970c-800wi 6a00d8341ca70953ef010534a16a1a970b-800wi 6a00d8341ca70953ef0120a6228749970b-800wi 6a00d8341ca70953ef0120a62296af970b-800wi 6a00d8341ca70953ef0120a6228c7b970b-800wi

Fatigue, Fat Cells, Back-Pain and White Hair

Every time I am pregnant, I tend to get back pain in my third trimester. It is due to my genetically inherited Scoliosis. One of my friends jokingly said, I am sexy only on one side of my body because my waist curves in more than it does on the other! It’s funny because my belly button is not in the center of my tummy when it starts to get bigger. Well, I have lived with being crooked or tilted to one side all my life so I have learned to deal with it.

Unfortunately, pregnancy tends to aggravate my Scoliosis. It can get so painful I can hardly put on pants without struggling. The back pain usually begins around 6 months and comes and goes until I give birth. Saturday night, however, I could barely walk. I had to drag my left leg because I could not lift it. It was partly my doing for having gone on a rampage to clean the house. But normally, this would have caused mild aching versus immobility.

Thank God I was fine the next day but it was upsetting to feel so debilitated at just 10 weeks. I mean, come on! Is this age-related?

I am starting to think that it is. Not just the earlier-than-later back pain but the fatigue, fat cells, and white hair. I found a white hair the other day. White hair?! Me?! Waaaahhh! (Since I began writing this, I have discovered several.)

Elijah, who was sitting beside me at church, saw my white hair and wanted to exam it. He wanted to check its elasticity. That’s my Elijah. I yanked it out and handed it to him. He wrapped it around his finger as tightly as he could and said, “It is white but it is still strong,” with a kind of scientific objectivity. And then I asked him, “Is it really white?” He said, “Yes it is mom,” accompanied by a look that implied that I was, in fact, getting older. “Don’t worry”, he added, “I still love you no matter what.” I laughed because he meant this playfully. And I also thought, “hmm…that sounds like something Edric would say.”

Advertisement interruption: Married women, have children early. It’s worth it. You will bounce back and be your spring chicken self in no time. In your thirties, you have to contend with gravity, metabolic changes, entropy and who knows what else.

I know people say 30 is the new 20. It’s not true. That’s all marketing. 30′s is 30′s when it comes to pregnancy. You can cheat it a little by staying fit. But if you are like me and crazy enough to keep having children, you will feel the difference between 20′s and 30′s when you are pregnant. I was playing beach volleyball at 8 months with Elijah in Boracay. I was playing badminton at a pretty competitive level until 7 months with Edan and Titus. With Tiana, I can’t remember what I was doing. That’s an age issue right there.

Of all my pregnancies, I have never been so fatigued in the first trimester. I wake up in the morning and take a nap again right after breakfast. It isn’t a very long one because the kids need me. But boy do I love that nap and any other moment that I can close my eyes during the day. If I could sleep most of the day, I would! Narcolepsy is the operative word.

Despite the challenges of pregnancy, I am always encouraged by the all-sufficiency of God. He gives grace for every season in a woman’s life. He has helped me birth four kids and raise them (raising them still). And now he is helping me get through a fifth pregnancy in my not-so-prime-child-bearing-stage of womanhood. I am not saying I am old. I am not, okay?! But I am becoming more and more conscious of aging and feeling it with this pregnancy.

How wonderfully God comforts me through his word. While reading my Bible, I read “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NASB)

We can sleep in formaldehyde (actually you can’t), bathe in virgin coconut oil (my mom thinks vco is a miracle potion for like, EVERYTHING), use other people’s placentas and put them on our skin (I should have sold all four of mine), undergo surgical and non-surgical enhancing, drink raw vegetables, be all organic and live in the mountains to get away from stress and pollution but this merely delays the inevitable…We will decay physically.

Contrary to the Hollywood notion that prolonging youth and preserving outward beauty is a means to happiness, true life and happiness is the pursuit of knowing God and loving him, the relationships we build with family and friends, the people we lead to the Lord, the godly legacy we pass on to our children, using our gifts and talents to draw people to Christ, redeeming the time for his purposes, living to please Him…These far surpass the unfortunate reality of things like fatigue, fat cells, back-pain and white hair! And the added bonus: these things are the secret to becoming more and more beautiful!

Happily Lost in Divi

I really enjoy hanging out with my mom. She’s probably one of my most favorite persons to be with. When I spend time with her, I get that “Moses glow.” You know, the one where Moses came down from the mountain after being with the Lord and he had this glow on his face. She has that affect on people. I’m not deifying her. I’m just saying that she is such a positive, laid back, and light-hearted person that she energizes whomever she is with.

During instances when I would be notable sweet towards Edric, he used to jokingly say, “Have you been spending time with mom?!” He knew that a little dose of mom was all I needed to get my wife head screwed on right.

Yesterday, my mom and I had the brilliant idea of going to Divisoria to look for fabric. She needed to buy fabric for some couches she was upholstering and I needed to look for fabric, too. We had no idea where we would find what we were looking for. But I asked my mother-in-law who tends to know these things. She gave us some vague street directions (bless her heart, she is awesome, too). It was enough to go on — Juan Luna Street and past Soler Street — so we confidently went out in search of a 2-storey building that we thought would be easier to find than it turned out to be.

Divisoria is of course, a wonderful mess. Everything about it is disorganised but if you keep your eyes open, you will find just about anything and everything you need and don’t need but suddenly do. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find the place. I asked security guards and people on the street and they really didn’t know which direction to point us in. Anyone who lives in Manila knows that security guards are probably the least likely people to know anything. (That sounds harsh but I’ve experimented and this assessment is quite accurate.) The best persons to ask are public transportation drivers…especially tricycle guys. And that’s what we did. A tricycle guy in a purple shirt said he could show us the way. Okay, I didn’t tell my husband, Edric, that we let some stranger into our car and paid him 80 pesos to be our tour guide through the streets of Divisoria. My mom thought it was a great idea. What was 80 pesos anyway, for some valuable enlightenment?

The guy turned out to be a really kind man. Plus, he didn’t have that mugger kind of look and he wasn’t a mugger. Whew. We had to walk a ways from the Binondo church to I’m-not-sure-what-street. I have the worst navigational skills. I get lost in parking lots. But it looked credible. Along the way, I discovered, as most of the Philippines already knows, that Divisoria is the best place to find what you need for all kinds of normal and odd hobbies. Some of the things that stood out to me were fish nets, corks of random sizes, reflector vests, furry animal hats, big sheets of card board (don’t ask me why I care, but I do), a portable sewing machine that looked like a stapler (okay, mom got suckered into buying one of these for much more than she should have but its a handy little gadget.), burlap, all kinds of string, and yes, fabric! Like, dirt cheap fabric that doesn’t look dirt cheap…40 pesos a yard for upholstery fabric that was 60 inches in width. It was unbelievable. Of course, you really have to look through the piles and options, but still…I would re-upholster everything in my house and the walls if that’s all it costs for fabric! My mom, being the same kind of cheap-o that I am, thought it was awesome, too.

I’ve got to add a bit about my mother here. She is in her 60s but she carriers herself like she is in her 30s — full of energy and life. And because she doesn’t have a single drop of prima donna in her, she is able to make the most out of inconveniences and uncomfortable circumstances. When she was getting tired, she spied a buko stand and bought herself a coconut and she was the happiest person.

She has the ability to find joy in the simplest things. I don’t attribute this to her perfection but to the relationship she has with Jesus. She is a Christ-centered woman. A trip to Divisoria with no real plan but with someone like that can turn into a fun adventure. And that’s exactly what we had! We also ate banana-cue and corn. Yum!

We made the most of our ignorance. Even though we never did find the building that my mother-in-law was talking about, we prayed that God would help us get our objectives accomplished and we did. Within four hours, we were in and out of there with all the fabric we needed plus lots of mother and daughter bonding time. Between you and me, that was the part that made my day!

20130114-221941.jpg20130114-221932.jpg20130114-221953.jpg20130114-221959.jpg20130114-222004.jpg20130114-222009.jpg

20130114-222054.jpg

When the Bell Tolls

Whenever someone I know passes away, death’s inevitability feels soberingly close. It is not so much that I fear death. I cling to the blessed hope that I have in Christ — the gift of eternal life made possible through his finished work on the cross. However, I must admit that I don’t like thinking about the dying part.

Please, not drowning.

I would rather have my head chopped off. Of course, going in my sleep would be even better. Or…just getting raptured along with my loved ones like I used to pray for as a child (I still do!).

Two days ago, I found out that Elijah’s yaya, Fe, died at 3 pm in the afternoon. She was Elijah’s nanny until he was about three years old and then moved back to Dumaguete to take care of her sickly father. Last year, she worked for us again. In July, she told me she had to return to the province because she was not well and wanted to be with her family. We stayed in touch and I found out in September that she had cancer.

Hearing the news of her passing was heartbreaking. I could not sleep that night. Whenever I hire household help, I make it a point to really build a relationship with them. Fe was one of those women whom I grew close to. She dearly loved our family. We had shared the gospel with her and prayed with her to received Jesus as her Lord and Savior years ago. And she was a very kind and selfless person. She didn’t even want to accept financial help for her sickness, nor did she reveal the gravity of her cancer.

Tragedy makes me hunger for heaven. As Edric and I age, more and more people we know die. I suppose that is only logical. We find ourselves at wakes and funerals without many weeks or months in between each one. As always, the pain and suffering compel me to look beyond the period that is death. Surely, there must be something more when a life is cut short, when one is gone too soon, when sickness or disease takes a loved one?

On the one hand, I wish that somehow they could be again, right there, present and tangible. Yet I know that yearning is futile. The only recourse is to move on, less I pine away for a longing that cannot be. This is when grief confuses me. As a follower of Jesus who believes with all her heart that there is a heaven, I often feel that the pain of loosing someone eclipses the joyful expectation of eternity. I feel down. I feel detached. It is still difficult to come to terms with the absence that death leaves behind.

So I console myself by looking to the Lord and fixing my eyes on him. It is he who decides the end from the beginning, who determines the course of events, who fixes the times of a season, who allows one to live and another to fall. My great disappointment is not towards this attribute of God, who, in his sovereignty gives or takes away. I trust that he is loving and good. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “He has made everything appropriate in its time…” My great disappointment is with sin and the consequences it brings into this world, death being one of them, pain and suffering being another.

I recognize that my desire to get away from all of this is God-given. God wants me to resist complacency. What am I living for? What am I doing to tell others about the hope that Christ gives?

More than any other occasion, wakes and funerals make me quietly consider the need and urgency to tell more people about Jesus. I want to quote my mother-in-law who said, “Everyone needs something to do, someone to love, and something to look forward to.”

This is an afflicted world, but Jesus offers us a hope that no other can. Because he died and rose again, offering himself as the sacrifice for sin and confirming his power to do so by conquering death, it is by him that we are saved. And until he comes again or takes me earlier, I should be proclaiming this as often as possible. People need eternal life to look forward to.

Unfortunately, I can get so preoccupied with self-centered and worldly thinking that many times, my perspective never rises above planet earth. My thoughts are not lofty but revolve around home management, taking care of my family, fashion and beauty, useless gossip and speculations about people, Amazon Prime, Facebook, blogging, researching about pregnancy, what is my next errand, and am I getting fatter…It’s really quite sad that my head is stuffed full of these things so that I am distracted when I read my Bible and when I pray.

So this entry is part realization and part confession that Fe’s death was a good wake up call to detoxify my inner self. I needed some soul cleansing. I needed a spiritual revival. I needed to remember that I don’t have all the time in the world to seek God, serve him and tell others about him.

At the beginning of this year, I heard this song by Laura Story: Blessings and the words really ministered to me. Take the time to view this link. Her song gives a positive perspective on how God can use difficult circumstances as unexpected forms of blessings.

The Singing Brothers in Their Pajamas

Recently, I discovered that my sons sing together and harmonize. They started practicing on their own over the Christmas season, singing carols. It was a pleasant surprise when one day I heard them belting out, “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” in the car. Edan was directing and doing the melody with Titus, and Elijah was singing the harmony.

One of the reasons why they are able to hear their own pitch is because they do violin and piano, and from time to time, Edric and I randomly perform for them at the dinner table.

At the age of 7, Elijah was so eager to learn how to harmonize and copy us, so I taught him how to pay attention to the chords of a song. Eventually, he got the principle of it. And playing instruments has been a big help, too.

Titus is a natural singer. He invents songs and often has a melody he is humming while working, eating, playing and even while on the toilet. One of the songs he invented went like this, “When you make poo poo on the toilet, it’s very stinky. So you have to flush it…” I said, “Nice song, Titus!” But he didn’t like that I made a big deal out of his bathroom concert, so he responded with, “Mom!” and stopped singing. Well, it was fun while it lasted.

It is certainly a joy to hear music from my children. Whether it is playing instruments (even if they are not always in tune) or random singing, home feels like a happy place when our children express themselves artistically and freely.

20130110-103251.jpg
This morning, I was not feeling well. After a day that ended too late last night and with such troubling sleep because I received very sorrowful news about a friend’s death (after attending another person’s wake), it was so comforting to hear my kids voices coming from the dining room. So I asked them to perform for me while I lay in bed. The Singing Brothers in Pajamas

Most of my homeschooling this morning has been from bed! But we are still getting the work done. Thank you, Lord!

Ushering Boys into Manhood

DSC04844 copy

Sometimes raising boys makes me a little crazy…their seeming inability to modulate their voices, the perpetual movement, the mess, the competing and clashing of their titanic personalities…It is like trying to reign in wild horses. Thankfully, they have learned obedience and submission to authority which helps a lot. However, they still push back and want to assert their manhood and ideas very often. And I must be careful not to quell their natural inclinations towards leadership. On occasion, however, I want to say, “I surrender! Edric, please take over! I need to go get my toenails done or do something to get away from all this testosterone!”

The past couple of weeks have been wonderful because Edric had some time off from his ANC tapings and TMA Homeschool. So he spent one-on-one time with each of the boys and he has been 100% hands-on with training them. Last week was like Daddy Boot Camp because we had no house help. (I am not going to do that again. It was novel for a short period but exhausting!)

Edric reigned in our three stallions — Elijah, Edan and Titus. Edric’s authoritative manner got the boys to listen and comply with his rules. They were actually eager to follow a plan, a system, and they had a healthy fear of disregarding Edric’s “policies.” He was stern but not mean.

He had a couple of things that he implemented:

1. No leaving the table without excusing yourself when you are done eating or you stay 10 extra minutes.
2. Clear everything you use from the table and bring it all into the kitchen.
3. Follow the four step rule of taking a shower, brushing your teeth, putting on your pajamas, and then calling dad when you are ready for bedtime prayer.
4. Fold your clothes neatly if they are not dirty.
5. Throw or give away toys that you are not using and store new ones so you have something to look forward to. (In an afternoon, he got the boys to sort through their toys. There was a mountain in the living room but he got them to stack everything neatly so we can now put them into boxes for storage.)

The boys readily submitted to Edric like good soldiers. It certainly made my job of focusing on the home less difficult. And beyond this, he really sought to take the opportunity to mentor them. Elijah needed help with being more focused and responsible about his belongings. Edan needed to be encouraged toward courageousness. Titus had to be refreshed about immediate obedience.

Some days ago, Elijah forgot to excuse himself from the table and Edric made him sit there for 10 extra minutes. Elijah was frustrated because he wanted to run off and play. So he started to tear. A few hours later, he broke his glasses because he left them thoughtlessly on the floor. He really cried when this happened. One of the lenses had popped off and we could not put it back into the frame.

When I reported this to Edric, initially, he felt aggravated and frustrated. He was really tempted to be angry with Elijah for his carelessness. He had a talk with Elijah. Edric didn’t get mad, but he did tell Elijah that he needed to improve on being more focused.

Afterwards, Elijah repeated a similar mistake which again showed that he lacked presence of mind. In private, Edric shared with me his irritation as a father. I shared my own perspective on Elijah. From my observations, Elijah was beginning to feel very discouraged about his lack of focus and clumsiness. But I suggested that he is growing up so fast mentally and physically that perhaps this contributes to his inability to be “all there.” Edric decided to pray about it and give it more thought.

The next day, he called Elijah over the phone and told him, “I experienced being unfocused while I was working today and I remember that I was prone to the same changes when I was your age. I just want to let you know that I understand. Don’t be discouraged. I love you no matter what but I also want you to realize that Daddy is committed to helping you improve and become better.” (I asked for a replay of the dialogue from both of them!)

In response, I saw Elijah’s face soften as he thanked his dad for the encouragement. And he ran off to play a happy boy, confident that his dad was there to offer him grace, support and the mentoring he needed.

As for Edan, our cautious and calculated child, Edric got him to wade out in deeper water at the beach when we visited Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar this past weekend. Edan was afraid to try but Edric didn’t let him be mastered by his fear. He took him out to where they could jump the waves and after a few minutes, Edan grabbed Edric to embrace him and he said, “Daddy, I really like it when you are with me.” He expressed how fun it was out in the deeper water.

Very recently, Edric told me, “I have been thinking a lot about being a dad and the kind of father I want to be. I don’t want to be a father who is there just for the moments, the celebratory occasions. I want to be present and I want my kids to be able to say, someday, that I was around, that I was there for them.”

When I reflect on what it means to usher our sons into manhood, I think of Edric’s role in the lives of our boys. They come to me when they are hungry, need sympathy, assistance on their homeschooling, or a referee for their disputes, etc. But they have a deep respect for their father. They look at him with a kind of adulation that I don’t get. The boys grow up when he affirms them and gives them his attention. I get puppy dog eyes to butter me up when they want something.

I asked Elijah what he thought of his dad. He said, “100%. He is the best dad in the world!” He also added that when he has one-on-one time with his dad it’s important because “they can talk about men stuff that women don’t understand.”

Parenting is such a challenge, especially raising sons. I know that I would be overwhelmed without Edric around. I often feel that Edric is God’s grace to me…his leadership in our home. He steers the ship that is our family towards the Lord. Seeing him at the helm provides me with a great assurance, not because he always knows what he is doing (he would be the first to admit that he makes mistakes, big and small). What makes me feel secure is his desire and consistency in trying to do what God wants him to, as a husband, as a father. This is better to me than someone who has a facade of perfection and appears to have it all together. His dependence on the Lord for direction and his desire to please him is what real manhood is about.

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4