Darn, I missed the moment!

Titus, my third son, was sick for a day and a half with a bizarre and quick fever. He must have slept 24 hours to recover and when he was ready to move about, he kept talking and talking. I was in the middle of preparing for a seminar that I was going to give the next day and he just sat in front of me, eating pizza and commenting about the Ipad, telling stories about his Reading Eggs game, asking me questions about the asteroid that hit Russia.

“How did it fall through the sky, mom?”

“Where did it fall?”

“Did people die?”

“Where did it come from?”

He went on and on, and I was half tuned in and half absent because I had to finish what I was doing. At one point, I just laughed out loud because he was saying 10 million things and I said, “I have to prepare my talk first, okay, Titus?” He was quiet for a bit and about five minutes later, he said, “Mom, when you are done and I’m done eating pizza, can I talk to you again?” My heart melted. “Oh babe, you can talk to mommy anytime. What do you want to talk about?”

He became self-conscious as I waited on him to resume his endless trail of random conversations and he said, “um…nothing.” Boy, I think I missed the moment. He didn’t feel like talking after that. He asked a few questions here and there but he wasn’t as eager as he was at first.

My parents have shared about the principle of Magic Moments during parenting conferences — how each child has a particular time of the day or an activity they enjoy doing which a parent can capitalize on to get to know them and draw them out.

For example, when I was living at home, my magic moment was breakfast. Mornings were the best time of the day to talk to me. So my parents would linger with me at the table to listen to me share my stories. It meant a lot. I would open up to them about personal struggles or recall highlights of the previous day. They never made me feel like I was holding them back from a more important engagement.

I need to improve on this as a mom. When I’m zoned in to what I’m doing, it’s a challenge for me to hit the indefinite pause button to give my kids undivided attention.

Edan told me yesterday, “Mom, you are on your Ipad a lot. You shouldn’t be on it too often, especially when we are together as a family.” As a writer, that’s hard for me to do. I’ve got ideas buzzing in and out of my head constantly. My Ipad is like paper and pen to me. If I don’t write a thought or inspiration down immediately, I forget it. But after the incident with Titus today, I was convicted to be more engaged when my kids want my attention.

I can’t believe I traded that magic moment with Titus for the tyranny of the urgent. I could’ve postponed what I was doing for fifteen minutes or so and really listened to him. He would have liked that. It would have sent a big message that I like to spend time with him.

Well, I’m looking forward to being with all my kids in Cebu with Edric this weekend. Since we are not bringing any help, I imagine that the kids are going to have a lot of my attention. There will definitely be some magic moments tucked into the three days we will have with them. I hope Titus and I can resume the conversation about the asteroid falling through the sky and about Russia and the sonic boom that he was curious about…

10-Year Parenting Anniversary

Parenting has hit a 10-year anniversary for Edric and I, with our eldest, Elijah, turning 10 today. We are still in the trenches of parenting without the horizon of our children’s adulthood yet in sight. But, Elijah often pushes the boundaries of the parenting frontier for us as the eldest. He brings on new challenges, new doubts, and he surprises us with his ever-maturing perspective on life.

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Elijah, like all my other children, is an incredible gift to Edric and I. We have enjoyed his personality — his passion, intensity, zest, deep love for the Lord, and his insights. He is an intellectual child, a fast learner – a sponge, really. If he had a superpower it would be his capacity to read or listen to content and comprehend it right away. And with a voracious appetite for reading, he’s like an unstoppable force at times. I can’t keep up with the stock knowledge, facts, and information he has stored in that brain of his.

I remember asking him once, “Do you really learn anything from what I teach you or do you learn more from what you read?” He told me, “Honestly, I learn more from what I read but I still like to learn from you. But what I really like about you teaching me is that we can be together.” I felt both useless and special at the same time. As a homeschooling mom, that’s sort of a good thing. Independent learning in a child is a blessing when you have several kids to teach!

More than academic input, what he really needs from Edric and me is consistent discipleship. Like any child with intelligence (I think all children are gifted with unique abilities), he could become a Megamind without a moral compass. Therefore, he most definitely still needs guidance and mentoring.

Our parenting style with him has had to change over the years. The biblical goals remain the same, but we have to implore different strategies with Elijah. He has taken “training course 101”: obedience and respect. He knows what it means to obey and respect us, and, more often than not, he does. There may be occasions when he says things that can be rephrased in a more courteous way, but it doesn’t happen often. For the most part, he has internalized both character traits. The last time he received a spanking was years ago. He gets why it is important and necessary to obey and respect those in authority. Ultimately his obedience is to the Lord. So if he has a problem with that, he is accountable to him, too.

 

Elijah's first official photoshoot

Elijah’s first official photoshoot

Elijah as a 1 year old

Elijah as a 1 year old

Elijah today...checking on his stocks portfolio

Elijah today…checking on his stocks portfolio

At this stage in his young life he needs help with identifying character weaknesses and how to combat these with spiritual means. For example, when there is a mismatch between what his brain can imagine and what his motor skills are able to do, it leads to emotional chaos. He will groan, become self-deprecating, negative, and upset beyond reason. I used to try to lecture him and mouth out bible verses to convict him to change, but these did not help. This would, of course, aggravate me, which only made matters worse for our relationship. So I learned to turn him over to the Lord. When he would act up, I would ask him to quietly excuse himself and take a moment to pray and process his feelings.

Early last year, he finally recognized his heart issue as pride and admitted this to me. During a week of prayer and fasting held January 2013 for our church, he made a list of things to pray for and one of them was, “Be controlled by the Holy Spirit.”

When he starts to be angry with himself, he will voluntarily step out of a room and be alone for a while to pray. He will return about five to ten minutes later ready to resume the task that he was in the middle of. I asked him what he does when he isolates himself and he said, “I pray that God will help me not to be irritated, to remain focused.” This has been his most effective coping method yet.

As for me, I give him spiritual space to let the Lord speak to him. From past experience, I know that telling him what to do and saying things like, “You need to stop that and change your attitude,” works 1% of the time, if at all. I can still do this with the younger kids because they are in “training course 101” but Elijah is growing up. He needs to internalize certain spiritual truths on his own.

When he goes off and brings his frustrations before the Lord, he returns ready and able. I offer him a hug, an encouraging word, a back rub, and I pray for him instead. If he comes back smiling, all credit goes to the Lord’s work in his heart. After all, these instances are beyond my control. I can enforce consequences and get angry so that he will listen out of fear, but I’m looking for a different kind of fruit in him — a compelling desire to please God more than Edric or myself.

If there is anything that 10 years of parenting have taught me it is this: There is a spiritual tug of war for the hearts of our children. The reality of Satan’s attempts to turn them towards ungodliness and use their weaknesses to his advantage is so apparent. Even if my kids are homeschooled and seem to live in an environment where they are, for the most part, protected from negative peer, media, and worldly influences, the battle is most certainly within. Satan is a master infiltrator, intent on destroying every seed of faith that is planted in the hearts of our kids, and snuffing out the love they have for Christ.

I encounter this reality often, not only with Elijah, but with my other kids. Most of the time, they will do as they are told, but there isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t have to deal with one of the following in at least one of my children – selfish attitudes, hardness of heart, manipulation, laziness, wrong thinking, etc.

There is no such thing as a cocoon or bubble that can really shelter my kids from evil or their own carnality. And I really don’t think that parenting or homeschooling needs to be about paranoid over-protectiveness. I don’t homeschool for those reasons, though an undeniable benefit is that our kids aren’t subject to the same sort of undesirable influences that most children who go to school are. (Not all schools, okay?)

Homeschooling lets me be present and available to better understand, help and disciple my kids for the purpose of spiritual fitness because I have more time with them. How can I do this if I am not around to identify what’s wrong in the first place? What if I can only see what’s happening on a surface level because my interactions with them are minimal and reduced to a few hours each day? How will I pass on the love for the Lord if I can’t model or encourage it often enough?

I already feel that the number of years that have been given to me for a season of parenting are too short. Celebrating Elijah’s tenth birthday was a reminder once again that I don’t have forever to prepare and equip my kids for the harder battles that they must face. His real battles are not completing a composition assignment that he doesn’t want to do, or getting annoyed because he can’t finish a 20-sided origami polyhedron with a single sheet of paper better than he thought he could. (Both of these have the potential to make him emotionally ballistic.) The greater battle is between his two natures.

On the one hand, he desires to please God, to love him, and be an obedient and loving son to Edric and I. He wants to do his best in everything that he does for God’s glory. But on the other hand, he knows that he can be an emotional yo-yo, ruled by his feelings, and unresponsive to correction and teaching when his heart is overcome by pride and irritation. I praise God that he is learning to yield to the Holy Spirit as his best weapon for the war within. But it has taken a good long while for him to come to this point of awareness.

There are no quick fixes to our children’s character and even our own. There is no fast-forward button that can be pressed for immediate transformation. God allows us all to go through a refining process where we become more aware of our helplessness apart from his grace so that we can live with power through it.

When homeschooling moms fret about uncompleted daily assignments, unfinished workbooks, unmet academic goals, I want to say, “Have you considered the possibility that you are focusing on a minor battle when there is a greater war at hand?” But, how can I say this without sounding like a crazy person?

The reality is, if the enemy can get us to be impatient, annoyed and stressed out by the little things he can make us…

a. act in ways that nullify the positive influence we want to have on our children

b. doubt our decision to homeschool because we begin to focus on our inadequacies or our child’s

c. pressure our children to learn when their hearts aren’t ready so that the joy of learning is taken away

d. seek to motivate them externally when what we really want is internal motivation

e. give the evil one victory because he has successfully channeled our efforts and energy away from discipleship.

The greater battle is not giving them the intellectual capacity to cope in the world. That is certainly part of our responsibility but it isn’t the most important thing. We need to prepare them for the spiritual war – the real world – where the foundations of their faith, their convictions and values will be tested and tried. Will they stand? Will they falter? Will they recover?

As Elijah moves towards young adulthood, his struggles will also grow. It has given me hope to witness his strategy for self-correction – learning to pray and surrender himself to the Lord. But that is not the guarantee I have for my fears. What allays my fears is knowing that God is a gracious, ever-present, and faithful father. He loves Elijah and all our children more perfectly than Edric or I ever could. If we can teach Elijah to keep walking with the Lord, if we can parent him in such a way that his heart is continually turned towards the Lord, if we can encourage him to keep studying God’s word and grow in wisdom, and if we do our part to model a love for the Lord contagiously and pass this on to him, then I believe that God will surely do the more difficult part of causing Elijah to become the man he wants him to be — spiritually fit and able to be a light and testimony for Him.

May these verses encourage you as they have me…

The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. For he knows how weak we are; he remembers that we are only dust…But the love of the Lord remains forever with those who fear him. His salvation extends to the children’s children of those who are faithful to his covenant, of those who obey his commandments! Psalm 103:13-14, 17-18

Sunday Afternoon

I love hanging out with Edric’s family on Sundays. I am so thankful to the Lord for marrying into a family that is so wonderful. Papa spent time teaching the boys and their cousin how to use slingshots. Edric joined in the competition. They tried to hit an empty bottle and an old dustpan and this kept them preoccupied for about 45 minutes. As for me, I enjoyed watching them. Brought back memories of my own childhood — the good old outdoor fun before computers and IPads.

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Going Back to the Garden (Part 1)

I finished the book of Revelations recently, which is always scary but glorious to read. And now I’m back to Genesis. It’s amazing how you can read the bible over and over and still pick up something new that you hadn’t seen before and be amazed all over again by the supernatural authorship of it. Well, as I imagined Adam and Eve before they chose to disobey and then the aftermath of their sin, I couldn’t help but think of how it parallels the human experience.

God gives us the garden. I’d like to think of his design for marriage in that way – husband and wife with the Lord, communing together, walking in fellowship, enjoying his presence, and delighting in his blessings. Yet why, oh why, do so many marriages get banished from “the garden,” and lose the Eden-feel of it?

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When I reflect on my own relationship with Edric, I can trace many of our not-so-awesome and downright shameful moments to disobedience to the Word of God. Take my own carnality for instance. One aspect of Eve’s personality that I definitely see in me is the tendency to be deceived by wrong thinking and rationalize disobedience, especially in the area of submission.

I remember a husband telling a wife who asked him if she was submissive, “Babe, you are submissive when you want to be.” For the record, this wasn’t Edric and I. But sometimes, it can very well be a statement made about me.

Although I would generally say that I am a submissive wife (or I would like to think so!), when Edric asks me to do things that I am not in agreement with, I can occasionally be bull-headed. This results, of course, in my sure demise, and consequently, affects those around me. I call it the shrapnel effect of disobedience.

However, over the years, I’ve learned to pay attention to his spoken commands and requests because I know how detrimental insubordination can be. Here’s the problem. I said SPOKEN COMMANDS AND REQUESTS. When he doesn’t out rightly say what he wants but merely implies it or leans in a particular direction, I don’t always consider that as requiring my obedience. I think of it as “room for maneuvering” away from what he prefers to what I would like to do. Instead of really listening to what he wants (even if he doesn’t spell it out for me), I deceitfully think that it’s okay. It wasn’t like he said no. It’s not that big a deal. Don’t even bring it up anymore. You are off the hook.

I can think of two instances lately, having to do with recruiting new househelp that turned out for the worse because I didn’t really listen to my husband. He wasn’t necessarily explicit about not getting the two ladies I was considering, but he did convey that he felt iffy about them. Being in semi-panic mode because I was going to lose one of my help and I didn’t want to be a stressed pregnant woman, I decided that I had a better understanding and grasp of the situation and pursued the options anyway.

Scenario # 1: I wanted to hire someone from the province whom we had never interviewed but was willing to take a chance on because one of our yaya’s described her to me and I was convinced. What kind of dummy does this, right? Only a desperate dummy like me!

When this particular yaya went on a vacation, I communicated to her that I would send money for mystery yaya # 1 to come to Manila with her. Edric raised a red flag when he found out my plan because he didn’t feel confident about this unknown person. Having given my word, however, I tried to explain to him that I already told our yaya that I was going to send the money and she highly recommended mystery yaya # 1. Edric didn’t exactly give me the go signal but I took his non-comment as a possible yes. In my heart, I knew that I was making a decision that didn’t have his full blessing but I really badly needed another yaya so I justified my actions.

Well, on the day that mystery yaya # 1 was supposed to arrive at the dock to board a ship to Manila, she was a no-show. She didn’t even explain to our yaya why she couldn’t make it. Fortunately, our yaya was able to refund her ticket but it delayed her own arrival for several days. This wasn’t pleasant because I needed her back sooner and we were short on help. When I sheepishly reported to Edric what happened I said sorry for not obeying. I had a goal and I didn’t want it blocked. But in the end, it caused only more stress for our household.

Scenario # 2: Another option presented itself. Let’s call her mystery yaya # 2. On the recommendation of my mom’s help, I proposed to Edric that we could send  mystery yaya # 2 money to come to Manila. She was coming from Tarlac so it wasn’t very far. I just needed to send her 500 pesos. Again, Edric felt that this was a little questionable and bogus. Even if we did a background check on mystery yaya # 2 through my mom’s helper, I started to feel like this may be a repeat of scenario # 1 just because Edric wasn’t 100 percent okay with it. But, like a dog returns to its vomit (that’s me), I had the money sent anyway. Well, to make a long story short, mystery yaya # 2 claimed that she never got the money and wasn’t interested in working for us anymore. Plus, she was very unkind to my own househelp who had tried to coordinate with her, and it caused tension between my househelp and my mom’s helper.

Both these scenarios were demonstrative of how I went ahead of my husband and outside his covering of protection. Had I really listened to his heart and paid attention to his concerns, trusting that he had greater insight on the matter, I would have saved myself the headache and stress of people issues. And, I would’ve been 500 pesos richer. Sure, it’s not a big amount but the point was clear. Submission is so much more than obedience. It is an attitude of the heart. Do I trust God by trusting in my husband’s authority? And do I understand that God uses my husband’s authority to protect me and to bless me?

Well, from these two scenarios, God revealed to me that I haven’t completely internalized the biblical principle of submission to authority. Why? Because I don’t tremble in fear when I insist on my way or my perspective. It should scare me that I don’t take it as seriously as I should. What if the stakes were higher? What if my disobedience resulted in major issues and problems?

I used to think it was a little over-kill when my mom would be so particular about submitting to my dad’s authority. When she knew that she didn’t have his full blessing, it would deeply trouble her and she would not want to go against his will (whether or not it was explicitly stated.) But now I understand better. She wanted to honor him. Honor is a higher standard.

Here is the thing about being married. I know my husband very well. He doesn’t always have to say things in black and white to communicate what he wants or what is in his heart. God not only holds me accountable for my submission to the clear commands my husband gives me. He holds me accountable for the desire to honor Edric. My willingness and delight to obey Edric are a reflection of my willingness and delight in obey the Lord. It is being aware of the chain of command – God revealing his will through my husband to me, and trusting that my ultimate authority is God.

Some years ago, I read John Bevere’s book, Under Cover, which talks about the promise of protection under God’s authority and through his ordained authorities. Re-visiting some of his writing again, I came across a section that struck me.

“The moment a person disobeys the Word of God clearly revealed to him, a veil goes over his heart, and that veil distorts and obstructs his view. It is deception….Once this pattern forms, it becomes increasingly difficult to discern truth from error…At the next infraction, we don’t feel the knife so keenly because a veil shrouds it; rather, there is only a pinch of discomfort. Again we justify ourselves, and another veil blankets our hearts, muffling further the call of truth. The next time we transgress we sense a mere tingle of conviction. If again we justify, another death shroud veils our hearts. If we sin again, the veil is so think, there is no conviction at all – only justification. Deception has hidden the truth from us, and the conscience is seared. At this point a person may fall away from any semblance of godliness, or more frequently he may continue with a form of godliness, but live religiously under the curse of the knowledge of good and evil.”

I deceive myself and numb my spiritual senses to the reality of my disobedience every time I choose to tune out to what Edric, as God’s ordained authority in my life, asks of me. It is called living with a “form of godliness” but refusing to call it sinfulness.

If Eve had honored the authority of Adam in her life, she would have avoided lingering around the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and listening to her serpentine whisperer. What was she doing so close to the cliff anyway? It was flirting with danger. She would have recognized that when Adam relayed to her God’s command it was for her protection and blessing. It was not meant to deprive her of good like she deceitfully began to believe.

It’s interesting that when God called Adam and Eve’s actions into account, the first marital conflict ensued…blaming one another and finger-pointing! God addressed Adam first because he was supposed to be in charge, and then he asked Eve. Both of them made excuses. Adam may not have taken the first bite, but God held him fully responsible. Eve may have cried deception and victim but she too was held fully responsible.

At the end of the day, a wife can’t say, “But I didn’t know that I was supposed to submit to my husband in that area.” Or, “I didn’t think that submission applied in this scenario.” “Why should I submit to my husband when he is not even a spiritual leader in our home?”

Neither can a husband say, “I didn’t know I was supposed to lead and disciple my wife.” “Why am I being held responsible for her?” “It’s so hard to be a godly leader, can’t you cut me some slack!”

Both a husband and wife are accountable.

Edric and I want to follow God’s Word. Beyond the motivation of loving Him, we know that individually, we will have to give an account of our faithfulness. I cannot blame anyone or make excuses for my actions or choices. Edric can’t either.

Ephesians 5:25-29 talks about how a husband must love his wife, give himself up for her and sanctify her, in order that she might be presented as having no spot or wrinkle, but holy and blameless. And he is to nourish and cherish her.

This list is a tall order. Edric’s got to disciple me. He’s got to be a good example. And that’s not easy. He can’t give up on me or resign from his post as leader of our home. The more I think about what a burden it is to have to lead a family, the more I appreciate the role that God has for me as a wife and the more I appreciate the effort that Edric puts into fulfilling his.

Once again, God’s design for marriage is mirrored in the picture of the garden he created. The dynamic between a husband’s and woman’s responsibilities were complementary — intended to create a loving, secure, and joyful atmosphere in their relationship. But, it was not the two of them that made it complete or amazing. It was God’s presence – the holy love triangle – and abiding in it through their obedience.

Disobedience will cost us the garden, just as it did for Adam and Eve, and we may never be able to return to the original, physical Garden of Eden that God once intended for us. But, we can certainly have the spiritual version of it in our marriages, in our lives. What made the garden so beautiful was God walking with man in intimate fellowship. And that is available to each one of us, single, married, and even those who feel alone in their marriages. The secret is to abide in his presence and obey his word.

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There is an old hymn that my dad has loved, called “I Come to the Garden Alone.” I never cared too much for the music of it, but the words were always very tender. “I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses, and the voice I hear falling on my ear, the Son of God discloses. And he walks with me, and he talks with me, and he tells me I am his own; and the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known…”

If you are living with a counterfeit version of happiness or temporal fixes to mask unfulfilled longings, perhaps you might want to ask yourself if you have traded the garden for lesser things — wrong choices, a semblance of godliness, or traded what appears good for what is truly the best — an intimate relationship with God himself.  

Teens and the Web – Eyeopening Statistics You Should Know About

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Source:Teens and the Web by onlineclasses.org

 

My T.A.

I have a teacher’s assistant, also known as Edan, my second son. He is an incredible help to me when it comes to homeschooling Tiana. With his methodical and systematic way of doing things, he comes up with activities for her to do when the others are homeschooling or like a good soldier, he will implement assignments that I delegate to him. Tiana calls him “Teacher Edan” during her lessons and what a relief it has been to have him preoccupy her so I can give attention to Titus when he needs one-on-one instruction.

I have told Edan many times how valuable he is to me. And the thing is, he really enjoys being a teacher. He gets a deep sense of fulfillment out of the experience and he is quite patient. Sometimes, he does get annoyed when Tiana doesn’t focus. But hey, she is like 2 years old. Her attention span is 5 minutes or less.

Today, I laughed when Edan said, “Mom, it is going to take Tiana ONE YEAR to learn all the things that you asked me to teach her!” She was a bit distracted when he was asking her to complete a pattern. But most of the time, he’s got her attention and she is participatory and engaged. The benefit to Edan is that he is learning communication skills and reinforcing his own knowledge of academic matter…not to mention putting character traits into practice.

Seeing my kids look out for each other is one of my delights as a homeschooling mom. It’s not easy to teach four kids who are at different levels and have varying needs, but Edan’s assistance provides me with daily encouragement. Multi-level homeschooling is so much easier when siblings contribute and help one another. Furthermore, I am realizing that children respond to the expectations you have of them. Whenever I see Edan volunteering to teach Tiana, I say, “You are such a great teacher, Edan!” It motivates him to live up to this positive label.

One time, a bunch of his cousins were coming over and he told me, “Mom, I am going to take care of all the younger kids. I will plan the games and activities. I will be in charge.” He named each one of the kids he was going to be responsible for. He left out Elijah and an older cousin because, according to him, they could fend for themselves.

I took a couple of photographs of Tiana homeschooling under “Teacher Edan.” Some of the activities were ideas I learned from reading about the Montessori method. :)

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Affects of Porn on the Male Brain

A must read article by William M. Struthers, Ph.D:Affects of Porn on the Male Brain

This article was forwarded to me by a relative and I actually started to tear while reading it. People get so enslaved to pornography without realizing how destructive it is to the formation and keeping of an intimate relationship between husband and wife; what kind of programming happens to wire the brain in ways that enslave it; and how clueless we can be as parents when we don’t filter through what our young children, our sons, have access to.

The author said that we live in a “pornified” society. It’s so true. But as parents, we are the guardians of our homes. What we allow our children to watch and view is still within our control, especially while they are young. And teaching them about godliness and purity is an absolute must. Children as young as 12 years old are having sex. That’s two years away from Elijah’s age! Wow. I am so glad he is homeschooled. But homeschooling doesn’t guarantee that he won’t encounter pornography or elicit images that can trigger an appetite in him. Vigilance, prayer, and discipleship are key. Preventive. Protective. Positive.

As parents, we too, need to guard our hearts and minds. We can say, I don’t look at porn but still watch shows that stimulate unhealthy sexual desires and fantasies. We can say, I don’t look at porn, but still develop an appetite for worldly values and perceptions when we do not consider whom we call close friends and the activities we participate in with them.

I was blessed by a verse that Edric shared with me. “I will set no worthless thing before my eyes…” (Psalm 101:3)

It seems like an impossible statement given that everywhere you go and look, you are bound to see something that at least alludes to sex. But, I believe that what God calls us to be — be holy for I am holy — isn’t without his enabling power. We can still go against the tidal wave of immorality that is destroying our society.

My prayer is that our home will be a sanctuary for our children, where they can stay innocent, pure, and unstained…where God will prepare their hearts to be devoted to him, unshackled by sins that render them ineffective for His great work, convicted to pursue holiness that they might see and experience God, and live the gospel with power.

“Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8)

“It is by his deeds that a lad distinguishes himself if his conduct is pure and right.” (Proverbs 20:11)

When He Feels Like A King

(Written with permission from Edric and recently edited to remove the cynical parts that I felt were unnecessary and detracted from the main point. Ahhh, the blessings of blogging!)

Some weeks ago, I wrote an article about husbands and their cave man time. I understand that Edric needs occasions during the week to unwind and do something that refuels his “tank.” Recently, hanging out with his cousin playing NBA on a PS3 has been it. He will get together with him once a week or once every two weeks and they will go for hours and hours challenging each other. Meanwhile, I stay at home with the kids and chill with them. After they go to bed, I have my own version of cave man time — meditative silence. No one needs me, no one is clamouring for my attention. Being alone like this gives me opportunity to write, research, and read. Heaven.

As much as I have wanted to give Edric his man-space, when I found out that he and his cousin had organised a PS3, NBA tournament with a bunch of other guys, I wasn’t thrilled. I was worried that it would become something more frequent.

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The thing is, about five or so years ago, Edric had an issue with computer gaming. He had a nightly habit of using the PS3 he had to play NBA. I was worried about the example he was giving to the children and his own spiritual health. It seemed to make him edgier and more abrasive as a person, probably because he was pumped up with adrenalin and testosterone. So I actually prayed really hard that the machine would break.

A few weeks later, the PS3 had a supernatural encounter with ants. They infested the console and destroyed it. Edric tried to get it fixed two or three times by a questionable and strange genius who worked in Shoppesville, Greenhills. The guy named “Val” happened to have long nails on one hand or finger (one of those) which he probably used to unscrew bolts on all sorts of gadgets. Yet, for all his celebrated ability, the best he could do was get the console to work for 5 minutes. The fan would overheat and shut down after 5 minutes and Edric would have to re-start it. Of course, this was ridiculous…so ridiculous, Edric decided to sell it. Yeah! He knew I had prayed about his gaming and we laughed about the entire incident because it turned into a comedy. The great news was, he didn’t replace it and for years and years and computer gaming was not in his radar.

When he started playing again, not as a daily habit or in the addictive sense, but as an occasional fun activity that he can enjoy with friends, I made it into an issue. He said, “Remember you wrote about cave man time? Your reaction to playing computer games seems like a contradiction to what you said in that article.” At that moment, I wanted to delete my cave man article, and all articles he could possibly cite! He was using it against me, but I knew that he was right, too. Guys really do need their creative outlets and it’s a blessing that Edric’s happens to be something “safe.” What is playing a sports game once a week (and outside of the house) for a couple of hours if it will de-stress and energize my husband? I was being a bit irrational…maybe even hormonal.

On the day of the “big” tournament, I watched Edric as he ate his breakfast that morning, as he chatted with his friends over the phone while discussing last minute details for the tournament venue. His countenance was marked by an obvious delight and excitement. My heart started to soften.

Look at his smile, I thought. This really fills him. It’s clean fun. He’s not the kind of guy that has a vice that you need to worry about. Be happy for him. You spend time on facebook and amazon from time to time. That’s pretty useless. Okay, okay…whew, let me process this.

I decided to do the one thing that always works to calm my spirit. I prayed! “Lord, if my heart is wrong, please change it. If Edric is wrong then please convict him. I don’t want this to be a continuing source of tension between us.”

My attitude did change! It was strange. Edric said he would be done before midnight and I wished him a great time. “Bring home the trophy, babe!” I called out and meant it!

That night I enjoyed being with the kids. They all bunked in our bedroom. I actually fell asleep before some of them did…like 9:30pm. But at 2:30 am, I woke up and realized that Edric wasn’t home yet. Since I expected him to be back before midnight, I tried to call him just to check and see if he was alright. He did not answer so I figured he was still preoccupied with a game. It’s amazing that I didn’t feel like panicking. I just texted him. “Are you safe? Are you okay?” He replied, “Sorry I missed your call. Yes, don’t worry. On my last game.”

I found out that he got home at 3:45 am. And miracle of miracles, I didn’t feel like rubbing it in. He had a class to attend at 8:30 am and it was a wonder that he was able to make it. Anticipating that his fatigue would surely kick in by noon, I prepared him lunch to eat in the bedroom; turned on the AC so it would be comfortable when he arrived; and when he got home, I asked if he was alright, if there was anything I could do for him, and informed him that the room was prepared so he could rest. He looked at me like he had just had an alien encounter. “Who are you?” he asked jokingly. “Are you my wife? What did you do to her?” He couldn’t believe I was so supportive and understanding. He went on to say, “Why are you doing all this? You are treating me like a king. I like it!”

I really couldn’t understand it either. I was cheerful, sing-songy, asking him about how the tournament went like I was really interested…Why was I so supportive and understanding? It was flabbergasting. Of course, the answer was it simply wasn’t me. It was the Holy Spirit giving me a desire to take care of him and serve him. For those of you who have followed this blog, you know that service is my least favorite language of love, but it is the one thing that my husband appreciates most from me. So this was definitely not me, it was God’s grace!

I WANTED him to feel like a king. And you know what? He was the one who said, “I played too long last night. This is not sustainable. I can’t do that again. We really have to impose a time limit with the guys.” That was from the Lord, too! There must really be something to this gentle and quiet spirit that the Lord asks wives to put on! ;)

A woman in our church shared about “killing your husband with kindness.” She was married to an infidel and adulterer, but instead of harboring bitterness and anger towards him, she was an outstanding example of what it means to be a Christ-follower. As a result, her husband repented, turned his life over to the Lord, and became a pastor with a ministry that is incredibly effective.

In reference to this, Edric used the same line with me as he was sitting on the bed, drinking his warm soup. “You killed me with kindness, hon.” And we both laughed. (He really isn’t a bad husband at all so the statement didn’t exactly apply, but I knew what he meant.)

For the rest of the day, I made sure the kids didn’t disturb Edric because he needed to catch up on sleep. After he woke up, he was beaming. He couldn’t wait to spend time with me and he kept talking about how blessed he was that I took care of him.

Do I like computer games now? Nope. But I know my husband and I trust that he has his priorities in order. More importantly, I know that God holds him accountable. It is in the Lord’s department to bring about conviction.

I love the Lord and I love Edric. I want to support and respect Edric because God asks that of me, even when I don’t always like his choices. I’ve tried the vindictive route too many times, where I use angry silence, nag about what is right, withhold intimacy, or speak and act in disrespectful ways to communicate my disappointment. (Women have many weapons of mass destruction but they tend to backfire.) Truthfully, I am blessed with a wonderful, godly husband. But when I see areas that concern me, I’m learning over and over again that prayer is the best way to minister to him. Prayer is power not only to change the heart of the one I am interceding for, but the power to change me, too!

God knows I need to improve on being a gentle and quiet spirit. It’s a moment by moment challenge. One day I can write an article like this and seem like such an angel and the next day, I am the complete opposite! But such is the Christian life. I can do nothing apart from the Holy Spirit’s enabling. Prayer keeps me connected to him.

Prayer helps me to treat Edric like a king — honored and held in high regard as he should be. And let me just add that when my husband feels like a king, I get treated like a queen. It is certainly a nice bonus!

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Good Reads for Homeschooling and Parenting

I was cleaning out my shelves when I realized, hey! I have quite a number of books I’ve read on homeschooling and parenting that may benefit others. And since parents often ask me what they should read or what resources can help them get started, I hope this answers that question. This is a growing list so I will just add as I finish a book.

Some of these books I skimmed through and others I really devoured. But they have all been such wonderful sources of information, inspiration, confidence and conviction-building for homeschooling moms like me. You don’t have to read everything on this list to start homeschooling. I know it probably looks a bit overwhelming and there is so much more out there that I have not included here. But if you click on the links, you may get a better idea of what appeals to you. Amazon always gives a pretty thorough description and has objective reviews on their books.

Recommendations (in no particular order):

 

 

 

 

Green Farming

We took a day trip to a farm for our homeschooling today. The kids learned about “green farming” from an agriculturalist who explained how to plant seedlings, do hydrophonics, vermiculture and the like.

It was fascinating for the kids and for me! I learned alot about organic ways to plant and farm. Hydroponics is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions, in water, without soil. Vermiculture is a way of composting using earthworms to speed up the process.

Lord willing, when we move to a house, we can have a little garden — Edric’s fantasy. For the time being, this knowledge went to the kids’ science files. What better way to learn about innovative farming methods than to experience it for yourself? The kids (well, the boys) liked the worms part the best. Of course they did. Yehey for learning experiences that are not confined to four walls of a classroom!

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Money Matters in Marriage

I am not a financial guru (that’s so obvious), but my husband seems to be esteemed as such because of his involvement as host for ANC’s On the Money program. But Edric will also be the first to tell you that he is no expert. He is learning along the way, as he interviews businessmen, financial advisors, CEOs, and the like. Nevertheless, he gets invitations to give talks on personal finance. Yesterday, he invited me to join him to give a short testimony to break up his three hour seminar. I have said no to doing talks in this season of my life (well, I have to be very discriminating) because my commitments revolve around the home. But, when Edric asks me to be his side kick for seminars he has to give, I consider this part of my role as a wife…prioritizing my husband.

So, I tagged along with him to a company that requested he give a 101 money talk that integrated family values. I am including my part of the “intermission” because his segment is paid for…mine is FREE! ;)

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Edric and I chose to get married young. We were crazy romantics like that. Well, as you all know, love does not put food on the table. Between Edric’s corporate job and my PR work, we were making P40,000, which means we didn’t have a lot of financial liberty. We started off very simply. I was very blessed to have a husband who liked to use a spreadsheet and make year long budget projections. So this is what he did…percentages, budget allocations, monitoring of our spending patterns etc.

Admittedly, I had no idea what it meant to keep a budget. My mom didn’t have to stick to a budget or so it seemed, so I thought that it was normal to be able to spend indiscriminately. She wasn’t an extravagant person so I wasn’t either. She never splurged on designer bags or shoes. My parents were not the type to buy heirloom watches or jewelry either. They invested in travel, land, properties, and businesses.

It wasn’t until I was in college that I realized how much people spend on designer clothing, bags, watches, shoes, and the like. Fortunately, because my siblings and I were not brought up to have an appetite for such things we didn’t mind not having it later on either. (My mom still shops at the tiange and gets compliments for her clothing without people realizing that she spends less than 1,000 pesos for most of what she wears! I love this about her.)

Going back to the early years of marriage, I wasn’t a major shopper but I didn’t have a concept of what it means to plan for your expenses. It was a foreign concept to me. And this is why I needed a husband like Edric. Edric is very FRUGAL.

It took me some time to realize the wisdom behind my husband’s strictness when it came to money management. But I began to appreciate it as the years went by. If I was in charge of money in our home, we would now be in dire straits.

One thing that he did give me was a discretionary fund or a “fun fund.” It was a fund for personal things – going to the parlor, buying myself clothes, eating out with friends, etc. We have often encouraged couples to have a discretionary fund that a wife can use without having to clear everything with her husband. If I bought anything outside of that fund, then I would ask for permission because he was in charge of managing our overall budget. Otherwise, my personal expenses were not audited. I had liberty, within my budget, to go shopping or treat myself.

The second money principle I learned in marriage was the concept of “living within your means (or even below, if possible).” Because I came from a family with means, I am embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know what it was like to have to take public transportation or have a second hand car. I knew how to do house chores, but I had no idea how hard it was to make money and make it grow. I would feel stressed when we didn’t have enough money to pay for repairs or fix things around the house.

God taught me NOT to make money my source of security. I had to learn contentment, avoid panicking that money was not in abundance, and quit comparing my state of life with siblings and friends. We couldn’t really travel out of the country. I didn’t have an unlimited budget for shopping. Even if I had a discretionary fund, it wasn’t that big. (Praise God it grew as the years went by!)

Living within our means was humbling at times and uncomfortable. I remember when I was 8 months pregnant with our first child, I was driving down McKinley to pick up Edric and I had to do a U-turn. But the car stalled in the middle of the road while I was doing the U-turn! Traffic was blocked on both sides of McKinley. I started to panic. Edric wasn’t answering his phone and I didn’t know what to do. Should I go out and push the car? I was 8 months pregnant! Cars were honking me. It was rush hour. I was so stressed…on the brink of breaking down. I prayed and prayed and after about 10 minutes, the car finally re-started. Whew. What an ordeal.

For a while I was bickering to myself and thinking, Why do I have to go through this? Why can’t we have a car that works better? I never had this problem when I lived at home! (Well, wake up honey, this is your new reality. God is working on your character.)

Although it was stressful at the time, Edric and I laugh about our adventures and the challenges we had at the beginning of our marriage. We used to park one of our cars on an incline just to make sure we could give it enough momentum to start the next day!

These comedic memories have turned into romantic memories. Seriously. When Edric and I reminisce about how God has faithfully provided for us through the years, we look at each other and say, “I am glad we went through that together.” It wasn’t easy but it made us closer. We started off without much so we had a lot to look forward to.

Many people wait so long to get married these days because of career choices, wanting to build up a piggy bank fund so they can buy a house, a nice car or two, and comforts that they are used to. My encouragement to women out there is learn to be simple and easy to please. Don’t be so high maintenance. It scares guys. They will feel like they can never afford you! Be wise and marry a man who loves God and works hard, and God will bless him financially. But be willing to adjust your own preferences. You may not get a big house right away or a shiney new car, but hey, you can look forward to those things together.

The third principle I wanted to share was lowering expectations and raising appreciation. I had to learn to be an encourager and a positive source of affirmation for my husband. Guys go out there and fight a whole different level of stress. Remember, God said that Adam would have a hard time tilling the ground!

Early on in our marriage, I didn’t know how to be a very good encourager. When Edric would tell me his issues with work and finances, I would say, “Well why did you make that decision? Maybe you should have said this or maybe you can do this…” And he would tell me, “Hon, if I need your advice I will ask you.” Oops. Verbal diarrhea in the house. In other words, what he wanted to hear was encouragement so he could go out there re-energized to get through another day.

In Genesis, the Bible talks about how God created woman to be a suitable helper to the man. A suitable helper doesn’t mean a yaya or househelp. The Hebrew word means “Life giver along side.” It is a beautiful picture of how a wife can support and uphold her husband. I am called to be a life-giver to Edric. I do this by submitting to his leadership, trusting that God has made him head of our home, and respecting him. But a big a part of being a life giver is also appreciating him, even for the little things.

When Edric would doubt whether he was a good provider, when he would feel down about not being able to give me the kind of lifestyle he thought I “deserved,” I would tell him,”Hon, I see your life. You love God, you are faithful to him. I don’t doubt that he will bless your efforts. Just keep trusting in him.” And then I would go run away to cry out to the Lord! “God, please let Edric know that you are mindful of him. Please allow him to experience your hand of blessing.”

But I made it a point to communicate to Edric that I believed in his God-given capacity, that I appreciated how hard he worked, the sacrifices he made and still makes to give us a comfortable life. Most importantly, I would tell him how blessed I was that he loves God and wants to be a godly husband and father. His face would change, he would hug me, sometimes even get teary eyed (just a little), and tell me how much my affirmation mattered…that it would inspire him to try his best.

Did I still have my dreams and longings? Of course. But instead of pressuring Edric to be the fulfiller of these things, I turned them over to God. I surrendered them and said, “Lord, in your time, your way, I know that you will give us the things we desire, if it is your will.” I would pray for Edric and commit our marriage, finances, children, and circumstances to him (I still do), and he has been faithful. I’ve received more than I dreamed of, not always what I wanted but better than I could have imagined.
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Lastly, I wanted to talk about the idea of priorities. For several years into my marriage, I was working full time and then part time to supplement our income. But, when we started having more kids, Edric and I talked about priorities and we decided that it was more important for me to be available to the kids and be at home. I am not saying that everyone has to make a life choice like this, but for Edric and I, it was a faith decision to switch to a single-income household. Who does that these days? It is not the trend.

However, we thought of what will really matter twenty, thirty years from now. I knew I cannot buy back the years of being absent from the home and missing my children’s moments. So I wanted to be present to instruct and train them. We both believed in homeschooling and that became my full time job. It doesn’t pay monetarily but it pays in eternal dividends.

And let me just say that I am never bored as a housewife. I have four kids with different personalities who keep me entertained, on my toes, and absolutely dependent on God. Plus, there is decorating, cooking, trouble shooting, and appliance fixing (I am actually pretty capable with a wrench and pliers. It doesn’t sound sexy but I am pretty proud of my handy woman abilities.)

God turned my heart towards my family and home…

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21 NASB)

The principle is do not neglect or sacrifice the priorities of God, spouse and children on the altar of money. If you are a working woman and your spouse still feels like he is a priority, your kids are growing in character and they are turning out just fine then you are one of those superwomen who can balance and juggle everything. Hats off to you. But, if your home life is suffering then consider how you can make adjustments.

Money can buy some things but not everything. It doesn’t buy a happy spouse, happy children, a happy home, real peace or lasting joy, especially if the most important relationships are neglected.

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We are a happy family, by the grace of God! Tiana doesn’t look too happy here, but she is. :)

Above all else, Edric and I have learned and keep learning that God must always be the center, even when it comes to our finances. He is our ultimate provider. He owns everything. We are merely stewards of what he is given us. Matthew 6:33 says, “Seek first his kingdom and all these things will be added unto you.” God delights to bless people that love him and follow him. But often times, we have it the other way around. We make money and worldly pursuits first in our lives, the center, and leave no room for God. It is a constant striving after wealth for our sense of security and peace.

Here is the good news: When you follow God and come into a personal relationship with him through his son, Jesus Christ, he not only provides for your needs and more, he gives you riches that money cannot buy. You may not become a millionaire or billionaire, you become more! You become a child of a Father who has infinite resources; who knows when to withhold and when to give; who cares about the desires of your heart but knows when to protect you from them; who never abandons you; who gives you purpose and meaning beyond the drive for worldly successes; and who gives you eternal life with HIM to look forward to.

 

 

When Little Pebbles Rob Your Peace

From website problems, to issues with my gadgets that have made me feel stupid and old, to losing 397 notes (many of which were articles) on my iPad and iPhone for unknown reasons, to yayas leaving at the wrong time, to people asking for money, to someone throwing up on our newly upholstered couch, to pregnancy hormones…let’s just say that I wasn’t feeling too perky yesterday. I didn’t brush my hair; the kids ran around in their pajamas while homeschooling; and we didn’t finish all our homeschooling because I fell asleep towards the end of the morning.

The thing is I had a great quiet time with the Lord reading 2 Peter through 1 John. But as the day progressed, I felt like a juggler of multiple sources of stress — most of them insignificant in the grand scheme of life, but all of them annoying. Let me enumerate…

Pebble # 1: I opened up my notes app and discovered that 397 of them vanished before my eyes. The page refreshed and then they were gone. Could it have been one of my kids who tinkered with my iPad? I don’t know. It didn’t really matter anyway because the greater problem was that I didn’t back anything up. My brother, the techy wizard of our family, couldn’t even figure out what happened which was very telling. I knew that God must have allowed it for a reason but I had all kinds of important documents on there…testimonies, unpublished blog entries, reflections, passwords, to do lists. It was like having my brain deleted. The same thing happened on my iPhone. I sat in the worship service at church on Sunday trying to take in what the pastor was sharing but my brain went cloudy. And I felt no emotion. Zero. I couldn’t believe my notes disappeared!

Pebble # 2: I updated my gadgets to iOS 6.0 thinking that maybe that would fix my notes problem, but it seems to be laden with issues I don’t understand. My iTunes store didn’t work. The wordpress app I use erased my blog pages (I was able to solve this). Comments of my readers could no longer be read on either of my devices. My gmail wasn’t receiving mail. (It still isn’t.)

Tech problems are especially perplexing and troubling to me because I am not very computer literate. I know how to write entries and post them, and all the simple tricks that come with publishing an article. But that’s about it. When it comes to managing the actual blog, upgrading the way it looks, etc…I find that I may have been born too early to catch the wave of computer literacy that characterizes so many of the younger people today. Elijah often knows more about the computer than I do because his learning curve for it is so much higher. When I encounter glitches, my default response is to feel a sense of helplessness.

Pebble # 3: Just a few days ago, my niece vomited on our newly upholstered couch. I would have preferred that her chocolate brownies, french fries, half eaten cheesburger, and macaroni and cheese had missed the fabric of our couch. But, it was a total accident. There was no one to blame. My sister in law felt badly about it but I told her not to worry about it. It wasn’t her fault after all. Stuff like this happens. My son, Edan, vomited on another family member’s newly purchased couch a couple years ago. And his vomit was full of green seaweed. I think that was worse.

Pebble # 4: I had two yayas that got pregnant last year, both of whom I considered close friends and whom I discipled…life-on-life style. We would chat often about having a relationship with God and what it means to make choices that honor him. Apparently life-on-life wasn’t enough. One of them lied to me about having children and being in a previous marriage even though she had worked for me for 6 years. She ended up running away with a driver who was being referred to us and whom she got pregnant with. And the second one also got pregnant a few months later and had to leave to go to the province and get married. At the time, I let both of these women go their way without feeling bitter or angry. Most of what I felt was hurt and disappointment. I really cared about them. It was a tearful goodbye for both sides when they had to go, but I dealt with it and moved on.

It wasn’t until the old wound was resurrected recently that I remembered the hurt. The one who lied to me asked for a referral for a new job. I wrestled with this request for 24 hours before responding. My thought process was, How can you be asking me?! You betrayed me! And you never said sorry or confessed to your wrong. Nevertheless, I did give a fair assessment of her work because she was a good worker but I told the woman hiring her that she ought to do a background check on her personal life.

The other one asked for quite a bit of money for her newborn baby who was in the ICU. My first instinct was to say, “That’s what you get for not listening to my advice about guarding your purity like I told you to.” It was a heartless, graceless thing to think but I was very much disturbed by the situation. Edric and I became her only resort for financial support because her husband couldn’t afford to give anything. I was so upset. You made your choice and now we have to bear the consequences of your foolishness? That’s seriously what I was thinking and it was mean.

Edric was much more spirit-filled about it. He said, “If we have something to give, we will give. God has been good to us.” And we have been giving. The last time she asked for money was a few days ago. Unfortunately, her baby is still in the ICU. (I also verified earlier on with the doctors in the province to find out what was happening.) Well, I have not only been disturbed by the situation but by the guilt I feel for giving begrudgingly. But most of all, I have been convicted about being more compassionate. What if I were in her place and had a first born who was so sick? Wouldn’t I want someone to be gracious to me?

Oh wait, I have definitely been a beneficiary of grace…God’s grace! God reminded me, I died for your sins and showed you mercy and grace you did not deserve, go and do the same. I was sharing with Elijah my struggle and asking him what he thought (like he was my shrink), and he very maturely said, “Well you need to love her like God loves you, and you need to be merciful like we learned in our bible study.” Who was this person counseling me?! Was this my 9 year old son?! He sounded like an old man. Well, he was right and I had to confess my attitude to the Lord.

Pebble # 5: We are now down to 2 yayas at present and one of them told us that she needs to go back home to take care of her mom. Her mom had a stroke a while back and she needs someone to care for her. She was crying when she informed us because she wants to keep working. Of course Edric and I understand that she needs to honor her mom who is also a widow. But, boy, the timing. So far, we have had no positive prospects to hire. And I don’t want to have to think about this right now. I even told Edric, “I don’t want anymore help. That’s it.” If I cannot rely on house help, I am going to do everything myself even if I am pregnant! I’m tired of the cycle of having to look for someone new, training them, letting my kids grow attached to them, and then they have to say goodbye when I’ve developed a friendship with them.

All these little pebbles shouldn’t have been a big deal, but I let them get to me. My spirit began to be critical and I began to dwell on other minuscule issues — we ran out of eggs again (we are always running out of eggs. There is an egg monster in the house), there was a cockroach in my closet (I hate them), my back was killing me, I had a headache, etc. etc.

The irony is I just counseled a family last week who was going through a crisis. And I told them to trust God and be spirit filled, to respond to the situation in ways that will glorify God. “Don’t let people steal your joy and peace,” I shared. Was I applying this? No! I was letting all sorts of things steal my peace.

What did yesterday’s little pebbles teach me?

1. Stay connected with the Lord. I referred back to my morning quiet time where I read the following:

For pebbles 1,2,3 – Tech issues and Couch Vomit. “Do not love the world nor the thing in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him…for the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:15,16)

For pebble 4 – Lack of compassion towards those in need. “But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.” (I John 3:17-18)

Acknowledging my own depravity and wrong thinking, then being reconciled to the Lord – “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:8,9)

Moving forward – “But according to his promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless, and blameless…but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…” (2 Peter 3:13,14,18)

2. Get outdoors and exercise. When I spend too much time cooped up in the house, it is depressing. But I take a step outside, go for a run, and get some sunlight on my skin and I am physically energized. Edric and I went for a 5 k run when he got home. I felt like I needed to pee 75% of the run (pregnancy bladder), but it was great to be outdoors.

3. Have conversations with God. One of the things I really enjoy about running is being able to pray for extended periods of time. I use these occasions to be very honest and open with the Lord about my feelings and struggles, and I focus on who he is, what he has done for me, his incredible love and power, and my soul is restored. As I prayed, God helped me with perspective. Why are you acting like you have such a small god? Why are you troubled by circumstances and happenings that are really not that big a deal? Other people you know have loved ones who are very sick or dying! What are a few inconveniences here and there to keep you humble, dependent on me, and to help you grow in character?

4. Don’t beat yourself up for feeling down, but don’t stay down. Emotions are God-given. God designed us to feel joy and pain and everything in between. The key is not to allow emotions to dictate our responses to circumstances.

Whenever I feel down, it is a red flag. I know I can’t stay that way. I have to process what’s going on inside, what’s happening on a spiritual level. Daily stresses are a part of life, but I don’t have to remain stressed. It’s a choice to be joyful, whether the pregnancy hormones rage or not.

5. Practice the attitude of gratitude and look to be a blessing. My mom had a beautiful friend who endured a bout with cancer and she is one of the most positive women I have ever met. In the hospital, she was sharing the gospel with all the nurses, doctors and patients. She has laughed at her distresses often and always trusts in the Lord’s goodness. Proverbs 31:25 describes her well, “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future.” Whenever she has obstacles or challenges in her life, her first response is to say, “hello, friend.” In other words, she sees these occasions as God-ordained and orchestrated for her good and spiritual growth. I need to be more like this!

I need to say, Hello, my pebble friends.

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As the day ended I thought about all the blessings I can be grateful for. Top of mind were definitely Edric and the kids.

In fact, my kids started massaging my head spontaneously when I told them I had a headache.

I said, “Wow, you guys are so good at this!” This wasn’t hallow praise. It really felt good.

Edan remarked, “I have many talents, mom!”

“You are very talented, hon.”

“By God’s grace,” was his response.

And he continued to say, “I want to take care of you, mom. You are pregnant.”

Elijah said the same thing. This made me smile. Even Tiana started massaging my head. What a treat! Titus was preoccupied but that was okay. I had three sets of hands all over my head and face. It was their thoughtfulness that meant a lot.

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From slightly annoying to all out devastating, from pebbles, rocks, boulders, to mountains — small and big problems that get hurled at us…and sometimes without any breaks in between — we are familiar with the bruising and the degrees of wounding they bring. But let us be encouraged by this…

For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. (2 Corinthians 4:6-10, 16-18 NLT)