Love at the Grocery

If there is one place in the world Edric doesn’t like to go to it would probably be the grocery. But I gave him puppy-dog eyes when I was about to leave the house with four children in tow, and he compassionately said, “Would it make it easier if I was with you?” I immediately said, “Yes!”

I know he was sacrificing 2 hours of peace and quiet that he could’ve had all to himself. In fact, he was looking forward to getting some computer work done. But his gallantry couldn’t help it. He is a rescuer by heart, especially towards me.

When we got to S and R, Edric dropped us off and parked. And then he came in to push the cart while I went up and down the aisles like it was some romantic date (with the kids). We haven’t had a date night in a while because of the no-househelp situation.

He remarked, “You’re loving this, aren’t you?!” My happiness was obvious.

Because I know he hates the grocery so much, it meant that much more that he came with me to watch the kids. The last time I was at the grocery with the kids, Tiana fell asleep in the cart and the boys got restless.

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When you don’t have help, you find ways to survive. The kids and I managed to finish grocery shopping but it was a little bit stressful!

 

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I had to grab something to rest her head on. Poor thing!

This time around, with their dad in full control, everyone was behaved and cooperative. He entertained them and kept them preoccupied.

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Is it possible to fall in love with your husband while he is pushing a grocery cart? Well, I did! I kept looking back to check him out.

When people make excuses in their marriage and say things like, “I can’t do that for (him or her), it’s not my personality,” I don’t think we realize how much it means to our spouse to sacrifice personal comfort, make personality-changes, or serve one another when it’s inconvenient. Sometimes, it’s the small gestures that are the most impressive.

In the car, I asked Edric, “Why did you decide to come with me?”

“Because I want to take care of you. I love you.” I guess I knew that already but I liked hearing it again. And being the hormonal person that I have been due to pregnancy, I got all teary-eyed.

Balloons and Marriage

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Balloons were 50 pesos each

Just when I think I have gotten submission to Edric, I end up making some sort of silly compromise in this area that gets me into trouble!

Yesterday, my brother, Peter, and I went hunting for restaurants that were open. Given that it was Holy Week, we had several fails. But we were on a mission to find anything, something to feed the 20 people that were hanging out in his house — nieces, nephews, and adults. We were happy to discover that KFC was open. And in the parking lot, there was a man selling character balloons. Yippee! Peter and I both thought the younger children would like them. I bought a dolphin and Minnie Mouse for Titus and Tiana. And he got Dora, Strawberry Shortcake and Lighting McQueen.

We got back to his place with KFC and the balloons. As expected, the kids screamed with delight. For about fifteen minutes they were running around with their balloons, and afterwards, they kept them tied to their fingers or hands.

Naturally, when it was time to go home, the kids wanted to bring their balloons with them.

Addressing the kids, Edric said, “No. Leave them here. You can play with them when you come back.”

From across the room, I thought, Come back? These are balloons. They won’t keep their helium for much longer than a few days. Why does he have to make such an inane suggestion? What a party pooper! Why am I thinking about my wonderful husband with such criticism?! 

Well, I offered my opinion on the matter. “I think they should just bring the balloons, hon.”

We didn’t have the chance to debate about the pros and cons of keeping the balloons because we were rushing to get home, so Edric didn’t insist on leaving the balloons. Yeah! That’s not really being insubordinate, right? I simply expressed my conviction in a sweet manner. He didn’t really say no afterwards.

On the way to the car, he asked me why I bought the balloons in the first place. He thought it was a waste of money and he couldn’t believe I got suckered into buying them. Okay, I was kind of suckered. They weren’t too cheap. But it was worth the smiles I saw on the kids’ faces. (To a husband who hosts a money show this was not a compelling reason. He certainly loves our children but balloons would not be his way of showing it.)

We managed to get home without the balloons blocking his rear view mirror and all was quiet until…

In the evening, our nieces and nephews came over for dinner. They brought their balloons over, too! What fun! It was going really well until Titus dragged all the balloons and they snagged on a huge, glass vase that I had on display in the living room. Without thinking, he yanked and yanked at the strings and CRASH! The vase fell and shattered. It was quite an expensive one, too.

The vase was a gift during our wedding. Sigh.

The vase was a gift during our wedding. Sigh.

Since I was in the bedroom, I came out to inspect what happened. I saw Titus on the verge of tears, the vase destroyed, and little kids trying to run away from the glass shards that had scattered everywhere.  Thankfully, no one was injured.

After reassuring Titus that it wasn’t his fault, that it was an accident, and getting the kids out of harms way so the mess could be cleaned up, I walked the hallway back to the bedroom where I knew my judgment awaited. Oh dear. I couldn’t help but think how in trouble I would be when Edric found out what caused all the chaos. And sure enough, I received exactly what I deserved. “Hon, this wouldn’t have happened if you had obeyed me,” Edric said.

Lord, do my mistakes have to be so dramatically magnified?! Is submission this serious a command? Over balloons! Why are you so strict with me?! Waahhh. 

I’ve written stories about the blessings of submission and the pitfalls of not obeying my husband, and still, here I am, a work in progress. I am reminded that God does not only transforms a person’s mindset, desires, purpose, and destiny – he is a refiner. This means he is committed to refining my character daily, in big and small ways.

After all, the standard for character is himself, not my spouse, or friends, or Hollywood (oh my), or cultural norms, or trends… He loves me too much to allow me to remain myself, to plateau, to just cruise along, to stagnate, or even digress. Nothing slips his notice and watchful gaze.  So if it means using balloons and marriage as an object lesson to teach me greater obedience, well, that’s what he will do!

Psalm 66:8-10 Bless our God, O peoples, and sound His praise abroad, who keeps us in life and does not allow our feet to slip. For You have tried us, O God; You have refined us as silver is refined.

 

 

 

Approachable

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Edric and I have an open communication policy with our kids. This means they can correct us and call out areas that we need to improve on. Of course, they are encouraged to do it in a polite way. It certainly keeps us on our “character toes.”

This morning, in the car, the boys were like a bunch of hyenas. They were cackling, singing loudly and Edric hit his toleration threshold. He was in the middle of composing a text message so he said, “Quiet boys, quiet!” His tone was agitated. The boys simmered down. But it was an awkward kind of silence.

Meanwhile, Edric asked me for the address of a wake we were going to attend and I offered to forward to him the text message so it would be easier for him to pass it on to friends who were going to attend the same wake. However, he thought it was simpler just to hand my phone over so he could copy it down onto a message he was already writing. I retorted with sarcasm under my breath, “It’s not simpler.” The kids looked over at me and Edric was like, “Excuse me? Did you just say something under your breath?”

Edan inched over to my side (we were all in the back and Edric was in front, in the passenger seat). Whispering into my ear, he asked, “Was dad practicing meekness?” Our bible study as a family the previous week was about being meek. And one of the examples Edric gave was responding with meekness toward family members. I suggested to Edan,“Why don’t you ask daddy?”

A few minutes later he did. “Daddy, were you being meek?” Edan stuck his head in between the two front seats to question Edric. When Edric realized he hadn’t been a good example, he asked for forgiveness from the kids and from me. But he also added, “Your mommy also needs to learn to submit and respect daddy.” I quickly apologized too and asked for forgiveness from Edric and the kids. Elijah turned towards me and gave me an approving look. He may be just 10 years old but he really internalizes these moments and watches us ever so closely. (Actually, all of them do.)

The rest of the car ride was fine. The tense atmosphere was dispelled and we went back to chatting with one another.

Whew! It’s really quite impossible to be perfect in front of our kids. But that’s not the goal. The goal is to keep moving towards Christ-likeness. Family is the best context to do this when each person is motivated by love and committed to helping one another grow in character. I really think that children are a blessing in this sense. Seeing our “issues” through their eyes makes Edric and I desire to be more careful, conscious and consistent about being Christ-like. If they can’t find Christ in our home, in our personal lives, then we can’t expect them to want Christ either. I praise God that their hearts are still tender and forgiving, and they know we are on this journey of faith together, as a team.

but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:15, 16 NASB)

 

The Real Dirt on This Housewife

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When we go through trying situations, it is very easy to shift the attention inward – to nurse personal wounds, run away or retreat, ignore the needs of others because we are so preoccupied with our own, or even react in a temperamental way because we expect to be treated with a little more consideration.

I saw myself behave like this a couple of times during this week around my kids. Having worked so hard to serve them day after day because I don’t have household help, I got to the point where I felt aggravated when they would thoughtlessly drop their trash, leave their soiled clothes on the floor, indiscriminately use a glass to drink without thinking to wash it afterwards, etc.

A few years ago my dad used the illustration of a toothpaste tube to talk about how people respond to stress. When you get squeezed, what comes out? One time he filled it with dirt and while he was preaching, he showed the audience how a toothpaste tube can look clean from the outside but fail to pass the pressure test.

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I’ve had my share of dirt come out this week. For instance, I reacted to Titus when he turned a newly purchased bottle of baby wash into a solution for bubbles. He was playing with it for close to an hour in the bathroom and when I came in to tell him it was time to get out of the shower, I discovered what he had done. Irritated, I picked up the half-empty bottle and threw it on the floor in front of him. He cried because he knew I was angry. And I nearly cried too because I was wrong. So wrong. I apologized and asked for forgiveness. The stress of the week had got to me. Titus didn’t deserve to be treated that way, even if he hadn’t acted wisely about the baby wash. (It was actually my fault for not teaching him about stewardship and my assumption that he would know better was not fair.)

On yet another occasion, I snapped at the guard in our condo for not assisting me when I was holding ten million bags while exiting the building. Ten million is an obvious exaggeration. Elijah asked me why I reacted that way. I said, “Because he should have helped me.” But wait a minute, that didn’t justify my behavior. In the car, I asked for his forgiveness for the way I spoke to the guard. He replied, “Well, it’s nice to see that you aren’t making excuses.” Ouch. From the mouth of babes…

Today, when Edric asked me to do something for him, I didn’t want to move from my position on the bed, with my laptop in front of me. I was deleting junk mail and it was really therapeutic. It was my bit of respite after washing lunch dishes. Instead of getting up to do what he asked me to, I recoiled with a why-don’t-you-do-it kind of statement. Uh-oh. Wrong. Wrong. A few hours later, I apologized to him, too.

Housekeeping seems to have brought out the best and worst in me. I’ve become super efficient at keeping the house in order but it has given me this entitlement mentality. Since I am serving all of you, I expect to be handled with care and respect. Well, here’s the newsflash. Real servants don’t make x-deals like this.

Real servants choose to be a blessing. And they can only bless if they are spirit-filled. I haven’t been lately. I’ve de-prioritized my quiet times with the Lord every morning. My default mode has been to wake up, cook breakfast, and let all the other chores snowball from there. In the evenings, I squeeze a quick read from my Bible. As a result, I’ve been serving out of poverty of spirit. Mechanical. Dutiful. But not Christ-like. Sure, I wrote about the Lord being my joy in all of this about a week ago. And he still is, but the joy hasn’t been as consistent as it should be. It has taken a roller coaster ride since I wrote that first post on the experience of being yaya-less. When the kids are militantly following my instructions and not doing anything to add to the mess I have to clean, I’m such a sweetie. But when they start acting helpless, get wild, and forget my instructions, I feel irritated. And, when the irritation reaches the brim of my emotional tank, it spills over.

So, I’m making two confessions. First, I have to get back to the daily rhythm of regular quiet time because mine has been erratic. Second, I have to stop eating junk food. I’ve been a bad pregnant mom – eating Cheetos and chocolate fudge. These recent changes in my normally disciplined existence have not been profitable for my spiritual health.

We can live life as a victim of circumstance or we can live as one who overcomes circumstance by the power of the Holy Spirit. I’ve been the former. And even as I write this, I feel a measure of trepidation. I know I have to be spirit-filled. It ought to be the only option for surviving the daily challenges of parenting, being a wife, and now, a full-time homemaker. But, every day is different and I don’t want to make bold claims. Like, tomorrow, I’m going to be completely Christ-like. So I’m proceeding with caution. And I’m going to say instead, by God’s grace, I will make it through each day that comes in a manner that glorifies Him. By God’s grace, I will choose to be a blessing and true servant…think less of myself and more of others. By God’s grace, I will stop eating fudge even though I love it so much (okay, after this batch is done…no more making fudge!)

I may be able to clean up house dirt, but only God can clean out the dirt in me!

1 John 1:8-9 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.

 

No Favorites Allowed!

My children keenly observe the differences between what one sibling is allowed to do and what another is not allowed to do. “How come so-and-so can play with the Ipad? What about me, can I play, too?” Their demands for equal treatment often fail to consider the bigger picture. Edric and I have reasons for our decisions that we may not always be able to explain. All they need to know is that we are after their greater good. But it can be tricky navigating the “fairness” issue. We don’t want any of them to ever feel like we have favorites.

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I have seen the detrimental effects of favoritism carried into adulthood — how it causes long term emotional damage and leaves painful, unmet longings. Just read through countless stories in the bible where parents played favorites and made a negative impact on the course of history! Sure, God’s grace can redeem bad parenting, but he hasn’t designed families to be the breeding ground for jealousy, envy, strife, ugly comparing and hurt that result from one child feeling less loved or another feeling more important and more valued than his or her siblings.

While I believe that most parents are well-meaning, sometimes we can be ignorant of the way our actions affect our children. We don’t mean to favor one child over another but it can come across that way. And if we don’t make it absolutely clear that we love each of our kids the same; that they are all special and equally cherished by us, they can possibly misconstrue some of the things we do as unfair or favoritism.

For example, Edric and I train our kids to put themselves to bed. With the exception of Elijah, who was our first, we sleep-trained the rest of our brood by 3 months. When they were 6 or 8 months old they could be put down awake and they would fall asleep on their own. This certainly made my life easier! I wasn’t such a zombie and my evenings were free to spend with Edric.

Recently, however, my 2-year old Tiana wanted me to hold her in my arms to fall asleep. Since I was trying to transition her from finger-sucking and the soon-to-be loss of her yaya, I would allow this. In fact, I welcomed doing this because my motivations were to help her stop sucking her fingers. Within fifteen minutes or so she would be knocked out, her head tucked into my arm, and Edric or myself would carry her to her bed.

The other boys noticed that Tiana got this extra time with me. On one of the evenings when the kids wanted to linger in our bedroom for a little longer past their bedtime, I told them they had to go to their room. They hadn’t napped in the afternoon and they were playing with friends all evening so they had to sleep earlier than usual. They saw Tiana tucked under our bed covers and she wasn’t asked to leave but they were. It must have looked very “unfair.” But, the boys obeyed like good soldiers and walked off to get ready for bed. After a few seconds, I heard one of them cry. It didn’t sound like Titus or Elijah, so I thought, that is Edan.

“Tiana, wait for mommy, I will be back.” I went out to peek into their room where I saw Edan curled up with a pillow between his legs and his eyes were red. I climbed into his bed to hug him and asked, “What’s wrong, hon?” I had my suspicions. He was quiet so I waited.

Edric came in to pray with the kids, holding Tiana in his arms. He too wanted to know what was wrong and asked Edan to explain. In between sobs, Edan finally blurted out, “Tiana gets to sleep in your room.” Edric understood how he was feeling so that night, he put Tiana in her own bed and he let me deal with Edan. Tiana whimpered for a bit but eventually closed her eyes. She was fine.

In the meantime, I stayed with Edan and kept hugging him. He started to smile. When I asked him if he was okay, he nodded. I assured him that I love all of them the same…that I have no favorites, that they are all special to me. For about ten minutes, I stayed on Edan’s bed and wrapped my arms around him. I thought he might want me to stay until he dosed off but when I asked him if I could go back to my own room he was absolutely agreeable. He didn’t act needy. All he wanted to know was that he was just as important to me as his sister was.

The next morning, Edric talked to the children about the idea of fairness while we were in the car coming home from church. He explained to the boys that expecting mom and dad to treat everyone in the family the same is not a healthy expectation.

“Sometimes, I may choose to give something to one of you but not give it to another. Other times, one of you may get to do something that another will not. And if you are always comparing and thinking it’s not fair you will be very unhappy. We love all of you the same. You need to have an attitude of gratitude. Be thankful when one of your siblings gets something that you don’t. Be happy for them and don’t compare.” He explained to them that they need to trust us to decide what is fair.

The reality is, we may not always be able to be “fair” based on their perceptions. For example, we don’t always buy presents that cost the same. That may seem unfair. But we think about what each of them needs and what suits their personality. Some of our children were spanked more than others and that might seem unfair. However, each one of them needs to be disciplined in a personal way because they have their own character issues. One child may learn obedience faster and another may be more resistant to authority.

Therefore, the challenge is not to focus on being fair but to discern what is best, for their good. God does the same with us. He offers us his unconditional love and acceptance (that doesn’t change), but he allows us to go through individual trials and he blesses us in accordance with what he deems as beneficial. It can be tempting to say, “God is not fair,” when he is actually acting in love, consistent with his nature. We simply do not understand the bigger picture…that he is always concerned about developing Christ-like character in us and orienting us toward eternity. When we fail to recognize this, we can be resentful and develop notions about God as someone who doesn’t care, who isn’t personal, who is a cosmic kill-joy. His grand purpose and who he is reveal otherwise.

Unlike God, however, Edric and I need to pray for wisdom so we can be sensitive about the attention, affirmation, affection, and attitudes we have toward our kids.

Do our kids know that we love them all unconditionally? Are they aware that we don’t make comparisons or judgements that make them feel like we prefer one over the other? Do certain actions or statements that we make cause them to harbor resentment or nurse insecurities? Is it absolutely certain in their minds that we make choices for their greater good?

Was it fair for Tiana to fall asleep in our bedroom? That evening, when Edan felt badly about it, it may not have seemed so. But once the kids understood the greater context — that she was in the process of being weaned from finger sucking and in transition with the soon-to-be loss of her yaya, they knew why we were doing it. And they cooperated with that temporary phase in her life.

The day after Edan broke down, I took him out on a date. I told him we would have one-on-one time to go and buy art supplies. He was thrilled. Did Elijah feel a little bit left out? Yes. But he understood that Edan needed some attention from me at that point. So he told me he would be busy reading Tolkein’s Fellowship of the Ring. Titus and Tiana had to take naps so they didn’t notice my absence.

There is no once size fits all approach to parenting our kids. There are biblical principles that remain the same, that we apply in our parenting, but we always have to consider the nuances, peculiarities, personalities, strengths and weaknesses of our children. And then we customize the way we reach out to them, minister to their needs, train and disciple them. While the approach and style may be modified, the intent must always be for their greater good, to cause them to fall more in love with Jesus. But every step of the way, we must rely on God’s wisdom and guidance so that each of our kids feels confidently loved by us and secure in our relationship with them.

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. (James 3:17 NASB)

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Thoughts on Romance While Cleaning Toilets


Who would ever have thought that romance could be rekindled by toilet cleaning?! Our recent househelp drought has been hard for me physically. It’s been tiring but strangely, or not so strangely…wonderfully even, it has caused me to fall more in love with Edric. Somehow this week of discomfort has drawn us closer to one another.

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Tired but sill in love…

Edric has paid close attention to how exhausted it has left me, and his thoughtfulness has been professed in sweet statements like, “Do you want me to take the day off? I want you to know that I will rescue you. I will always rescue you.” He said this to me yesterday while I was wiping the dining table clean. And I looked up at him, tempted to cry a little, but I smiled instead – a deeply appreciative smile and he knew that he made my day. He held me for a bit as I stood there rather bedraggled like a Cinderella who didn’t have a fairy godmother to doll her up, and I told him how much I appreciated him.

I’ve said it often that we don’t have a perfect relationship. We go through our ups and downs. But we have learned some key relationship principles that have allowed romance to last well past the honeymoon stage and cushion the challenges of yaya-less seasons like this one.

There are lots of ideas out there on how to cultivate romance in marriage, but I wanted to write about six particular things that have made an impact on our own marriage:

Don’t focus on your spouse, focus on what you need to change and improve on. It is very easy to hold your spouse to a set of expectations and forget that you have a lot to work on in your own person. I was like this at the beginning of my marriage. And so was Edric. We would nit-pick on each other’s shortcomings and it wearied us both out. Instead of enjoying one another, we were so focused on correcting each other’s mistakes. At a certain point, we realized that it wasn’t our role to change each other. That was God’s role. I began to pray for Edric and he began to pray for me. In the process, God also revealed to each of us what character areas we had to fix. I had to learn to be a more submissive and respectful wife. Edric, on the other hand, learned to be more spirit-filled and tempered, and to lead our family spiritually.

Till this day, we need to practice controlling what we can (our own attitudes, responses, character, spiritual growth) and surrendering one another to the Lord. When we do, we both improve for the better. Our relationship emerges a stronger union despite the conflicts, tensions, and daily annoyances.

The reality is marriage takes work. Spouses don’t naturally grow closer, they tend to grow apart. So the more activities, interests, and hobbies Edric and I share together, the stronger our bond becomes. And the more effort we put into being attentive to one another’s needs, the sweeter our relationship. A marriage needs to become the second most important relationship next to one’s relationship with the Lord. Spouses need to discover the heartfelt longings and desires of their partners and meet them.

For example, everyone has a love language according to Gary Chapman, author of the book, “The Five Love Languages.” Often times, we may think we are behaving in loving ways towards our spouse but they don’t feel loved. I am a words person. I appreciate being affirmed by Edric. It makes me feel loved. If he says 1 negative comment but pads it with 5 positive ones, I get the point but don’t feel the sting. He, on the other hand, likes to be served. If I tell him I love him but fail to cook him good food, keep the house in order, follow through with his delegated requests, then he feels down. So meeting each other’s love languages is a very effective way to keep the love fire burning.

Before we got married the pastor who officiated our wedding explained to us that marriage is like a garden. Prioritizing our relationship is like watering, planing, pruning the garden, and then enjoying it together because love is abloom. Conversely, failing to put effort into prioritizing our relationship turns the place into a weed-infested jungle! The flowers die; the weeds get overgrown; lovey-dovey feelings wither and fade.

Our pastor also challenged Edric to be in charge of this garden as the leader in our relationship. But, I try not to make it hard for him to do his “job.” How so? By not letting ugly weeds like bitterness, being unappreciative and critical, being a nag or emotional burden grow around me.

Be demonstrative. This isn’t about elaborate events. It’s the small things…Edric and I are affectionate with one another. We hug and kiss a lot. I used to be self-conscious about being affectionate in public. But Edric would remind me, “We are married!” Oh yeah. If any segment of society should be hugging and kissing a lot, it should be all the married people. We have absolute right to.

As often as possible, Edric also opens the door for me and seats me at a table. He makes assuring statements like “I’m here for you”, “I’ll take care of you”, “You are my priority.” I am addicted to his chivalry and I pray it never dies. When I am treasured and handled like a lady, I can’t help but feel both physically and emotionally attracted to Edric.

We also keep our relationship fun. Flirtatious and playful gestures…something as silly as winking at each other from across the room or pretending to check each other out, these keep our relationship from getting stale. Of course, this also means staying fit and leaving the dumpy clothes hidden (for me). I am a free-spirited person who doesn’t like to put too much effort into dressing up. But since it matters to Edric that I look put together, I try to wear what he likes me to, especially when we go out. After so many years, it still matters to me that he does a double take when he sees me dressed up. So I make the effort, even when I don’t feel like it. Even with my burgeoning pregnancy belly! Which reminds me…I have to do some shopping soon.

Another thing that helps is speaking highly of one another and refraining from saying disrespectful or demeaning things about each other, especially in public. I remember mistakingly cracking jokes about Edric’s personality when we were newly married. He didn’t like it at all. He felt hurt. So I took note of that and have since avoided putting him down (even if I am just joking). He is also careful with me. (If something needs to be corrected, we do it in private.)

All these things are free (except if you need to invest in a new wardrobe), but they do wonders for the romance-meter in marriage!

Preserve your identity as husband and wife, especially when you have kids. Edric and I have four kids, going on five. Our lives could revolve around our children if we aren’t careful. But we do not subscribe to the child-centric type of parenting that has become so prevalent today. There are boundaries. The kids don’t get to sleep in our bedroom (even though this seems to be common of Asian families). We safeguard date nights, even if the kids feel sad that they get left behind. Okay, date nights have taken a back seat while we don’t have househelp. Whether we step out of the house for a dinner or movie, or carve out time during the day to connect with one another, we look forward to being alone, just the two of us — no kids. We love our kids. But we can better love them if our relationship is healthy. They understand that mom and dad have a special relationship that needs special care.

Think about the traits you appreciate in your spouse. Just this evening, over dinner, I asked my parents if they thought their relationship was still romantic. They said yes very confidently. Married for nearly 39 years, I wanted to know what their secret was. My mom shared an insight that I thought was very practical. Remember what you love about your spouse – the good traits. Almost every time I am with my mom, she will mention something positive about my dad. Your dad is a really great man. I’m so blessed to be married to him. He is always so happy and cheerful. He’s never in a bad mood…etc… She will of course admit that there are days when they have friction and share annoyances, but she chooses to believe the best about him and he does the same about her.

Romance requires selflessness but we are naturally selfish. Therefore, the cure is a Christ-centered marriage. What compels Edric and I to keep bettering our relationship is our love for God. Selfishness is a relationship killer and without God in our marriage, both Edric and I have a tendency to think of our own needs before each other’s. I mean, forget everything I just shared if Christ wasn’t in our marriage. All those suggestions would be short-lived at best.

It’s not easy to be a submissive or respectful wife when Edric does things that upset me. Neither is it automatic for me to serve him when my love tank is running low. Similarly, Edric is not motivated to be patient and sweet when I annoy him. (I can be very annoying. hee hee). Or, to be affirming when my behavior warrants otherwise. Therefore, Edric and I have to keep walking intimately with the Lord. He takes over when we reach the limits of human capacity. He is the inexhaustible source of unconditional love in our marriage! Romance doesn’t end because he re-charges, re-kindles, and re-ignites the desire to love one another. There are certainly seasons in a marriage when romantic feelings will not be at an all time high but every marriage can be rebuilt if both spouses are willing to commit themselves to follow and love God first.

We love, because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19 NASB)

 

My Exceeding Joy

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It’s been another back-breaking day for me without househelp. At one point Sunday morning, I wanted to cry out of self-pity. But God used Edan to minister to me in a very uncanny way. He went to play the piano (something he rarely does these days), and the first song he played was “The Joy of the Lord Is My Strength.” I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t even realize he knew that song. The message was loud and clear: Despite the present circumstances, I can have joy…an inexplicable joy, because of the Lord.

The boys helped me with chores. Edric has been incredibly sweet and patient. He loves it when I serve him. But we both know that this isn’t sustainable. With four young children, homeschooling, ministry, house-building, work-stress (more so for him than for me), and oh yah, I’m nearly 5 months pregnant…this is a temporary phase. While I enjoy being in charge of the home and being this hands on, I won’t be able to do this for an indefinite period of time. For one thing, it kills my back. I am having more frequent bouts with the excruciating pain that scoliosis inflicts as my pregnancy belly grows bigger.

How did we ever get into this predicament of no househelp, anyway? Just a week ago, I had three yayas! Now, I am down to one and she is on vacation. A short one. I do hope she comes back, too.

Over the past couple of months, I have had one disappointing experience after another when it comes to hiring househelp. I’ve had to laugh out loud at the comedy of it all. God has allowed us to have so many fails when it comes to hiring yayas. From one lady eating the kids’ snacks and juice drinks without conscience, to the same person abusing my kindness, to another needing to return home because of a crying husband, to another having to leave because her mother is a stroke victim, to one who almost gave Titus a bath in the sink, to a current yaya whose abrasive and panicky personality can offend others who work with her (she is currently on vacation), well, I must say that this cannot be coincidental.

When Edan got on the piano and played that song, I knew that God was dealing with my heart. He IS dealing with my heart. Present-tense. This is a character building experience for me. God has blessed me with a comfortable and easy life. Just the other day I was telling Edric how much I appreciate him for working so hard so I can enjoy a stress-free existence. And then, WHAM! Yaya, yaya, yaya, yaya madness. This is a divinely ordained trial so that I can grow in character!

My great temptation is to complain. But when I pause to contemplate the spiritual aspect of what’s going on, there is blessing in all this discomfort, in the annoyances I would rather not have to put up with. For one thing, I felt the very tender presence of the Lord as I was frying bacon and flipping pancakes on Sunday morning before church. As I lingered on the verge of self-pity, I was consoled by the reality that “Lord, you are all I need. I can do this if you are with me. I know you are always with me.”

Today, while washing dishes, mopping the floor, bathing the kids, picking up after them and with them, cleaning the toilets, wiping, sweeping, and cooking, the Lord has been my song and my happiness. He has made me smile even during moments when my back couldn’t take it anymore.

When I was rinsing off plates after lunch, I could hardly move my left leg. Boy, did I want to cry from the pain. Elijah came over to hug me because he heard me wincing. I just prayed, “Lord you have to help me.” The pain subsided.

During these past few days of what I would deem as a measure of suffering (a small measure in comparison to others but it still feels like a cross to bear, none the less), God has brought to mind the story of my grandfather and father who have been such good examples to me when it comes to joyfulness.

Many, many years ago, my grandfather was the owner of one the biggest textile mills in the Philippines. He had come from China and through hard work and perseverance, built an “empire.” This was back in the 1960s and early 70s. He even had an office in the Empire State Building. My father told me he grew up with a “platinum spoon.”

However, due to untoward circumstances and a corrupt government, my grandfather lost almost everything. It was humbling for my dad’s family, but my dad speaks of that time as one of the biggest blessings in his own life.

My dad started his own business and God gave him a burden to start a ministry to business people. As a self-supporting pastor, he began meeting with a group of businessmen back in the early 1980s, and with them started a church called Christ Commission Fellowship. Today, nearly 29 years later, CCF is a movement of close to 50,000 Christ-committed followers, with churches planted all over the Philippines and even abroad.

I am sharing this because God causes all things to work together for good. He is never surprised by the catastrophic (big and small) events that happen in our lives. He is always in control, always at work to bring about his greater purposes. If my dad had kept working for my grandfather’s company, he would not have started his own successful business in land development. But more significantly, he would have been deaf to the call of the Lord to ministry.

One of the things that this life lesson taught him that he has passed on to me and my siblings is the importance of perspective. He told me that his father (my grandfather) never once bad-mouthed anyone or developed bitterness about the loss of his business. He did not harbor resentment toward those who did him wrong. And when he was slighted and humiliated afterwards, he did not react in anger. To this day, my 93-year old grandfather is a happy person. He can’t remember who most of us are, but he is not a cranky, old man!

Because of my grandfather’s example and God’s grace, my dad is very much like my grandfather. He is a thankful, joyful person, even during unfavorable circumstances. After watching his testimony closely over years, I know that it is the joy of the Lord that makes him this way. The right perspective on people and experiences allows him to process things in a spirit-filled manner.

When I think about this story, I am reminded to count my own blessings. Admittedly, I am very discouraged and disappointed with the inefficiencies and undependability of those that have worked for me as of late, but I have so much to be thankful for. Edric, the kids, and I – our family unit – we are okay, in tact, at peace. Love and laughter abound. I am pregnant but God gives me the physical strength to do all the chores I have to. There are four young children to attend to, but they do not give me heartache. Today, we didn’t get to homeschool, but we re-arranged their book cabinet and they all took care of one another. We can make it up another day. I feel tired and spent, but no time has been wasted on idle activities. In other words, I am managing just fine by God’s grace.

Would I prefer that my situation were otherwise? Certainly! But God gives me reason to rejoice. He is my exceeding joy! Psalm 43:4 says, “Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy; and upon the lyre I shall praise you, o my God, my God.”

I do not know what will happen in the days to come in terms of our househelp situation, but in the meantime, I am enjoying being sustained and upheld by the Lord.

Psalm 90:14 “O satisfy us in the morning with Your lovingkindness,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.”

A Season of Managing Testosterone

Boys. I have three. They are all strong-willed in some form or another. And they often exert their manhood upon each other by insisting that their own rules are followed; that they are in charge; that they are right; that they ought to be listened to, etc. I feel like a judge in a courtroom at times, as they bring to me their concerns: “Titus is not listening!” “Edan is not letting me play!” “Elijah is interfering.”

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Whatever the appeal or the accusation, I’ve got to listen to this kind of talk almost every day. It does get tiring. But I also know that I can’t abdicate the responsibility of training my kids. My mom used to tell me, “You haven’t finished training until your kids have been trained.” In other words, until my kids internalize the principles Edric and I are trying to teach them, we have to keep going.

Although I’m tempted to be dismissive when issues are repeatedly brought to me, I know that I-AM-IT when it comes to the daily training. Edric certainly helps out in a major way but I’m with the kids almost 24-7 so I see it all. And if I don’t step in to work on the heart issues of my children, well…I’m setting them up for future failure in the character department. And if they don’t grow in character, they won’t be successful adults either.

So, I have no choice. I have to deal with all the testosterone that comes my way. Some things, the boys can discuss among themselves. But other things need intervention.

A few afternoons ago, Edan and Titus had a friend over and they were playing a number of different games. Titus didn’t like losing so he was becoming a difficult participant. Edan was getting frustrated with his attitude. Naturally, they came to me for mediation or perhaps to pronounce judgment. This went on with several games.

It was timely that I gave a bible devotion that morning on Philippians 4:5…”Let your gentleness be known to all men, the Lord is near.” I had brunch with some dear ladies and we discussed the meaning and applications of this verse. Well, I had to apply it right away! The kids were pushing my patience button. I wanted them to settle their own disputes. But I knew that there were some character issues that needed fixing.

One of the games the kids were playing was called Hide the Pillows. According to Edan, Titus kept on “cheating.” Titus was spying on what Edan was doing by tiptoeing so he could see where Edan was hiding the pillows. Titus didn’t care that it bothered and upset Edan. He told me, “But I want to tiptoe.”

So, I took Titus aside, “Hon, you need to learn to follow instructions. If you were in charge of a game, would you want others to follow your rules?” He nodded his head. He certainly understood what I was trying to explain, but I knew that he wanted to insist on his way. In the meantime, I had Edan standing to his left making all kinds of accusations. “Edan, I’m talking to Titus. Please stop talking first.”

After dialoguing with both of them for a while, I realized that this was a power struggle between two boys who wanted to be in charge. So I came up with a plan. “Titus, you can be in charge of the next game and Edan will follow your rules, but while you play Edan’s game, you will follow Edan’s rules.”

They were both amenable to this and ran off excitedly. Titus wanted to play Hide and Seek after Hide the Pillows. However, when he proposed it to everyone, Edan came back to report. “Mom, no one wants to play Titus’ game.”

“Okay, then you have to help him out and make it sound exciting!”

Edan got it. He went to the room and announced. “Hide and Seek is so fun! Let’s do that first and then we can read books!” I heard cheers from Tiana, Titus and their friend. Edan’s enthusiasm got every one on board about Titus’ game.

I thought this was a good example of how we need to teach our children the relational principle: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” My parents used to call this the “golden rule.” Since the majority of my kids’ conflicts stem from self-centered thinking, this biblical principle is like a hit-ten-birds-with-one-stone kind of principle. If the kids learn this, I mean really learn this, the rest of the relational attitudes and behaviors will follow – kindness, forgiveness, understanding, patience, grace, etc. (Of course, the most important thing is teaching them to love the Lord and one another. But the golden rule for relationships is an application of loving one another.)

Being around to witness how they grow relationally is one of the reasons why I enjoy being a stay-at-home mom. It does get wearying at times. But that’s parenting! That’s the cross I have to carry. That’s discipleship. While it is hard work, it is incredibly rewarding. I derive great joy from hearing my kids say things to one another like, “Will you forgive me?“ “I’m sorry for…” “I love you…”  “You are my best friend.”

And by God’s grace, the kids do get along more often than not. Our home is filled with the sound of their laughter and their happy voices. But, like I said, every day involves training of some sort and that is the inescapable but wonderful reality of being a mom, especially to young children. I do imagine that in the future I will look back on these days and miss it all. So I am trying to enjoy this stage of motherhood and manage my own female hormones while managing my sons’ testosterone! 
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“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1

Finger Sucking Days Are Over!

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Since she was a baby, my daughter, Tiana, has had the habit of sucking the middle and ring fingers on her left hand. For a long time, she had an ugly callus on her knuckles. Her favorite way to soothe herself and calm herself down was to put those two fingers in her mouth. It was beginning to affect her teeth and the frequency of finger sucking went beyond sleeping times. So, a few weeks ago, I had to play hard ball mommy and put an end to it.

There was one particular culprit that had to be rid off — a doll named “Aymo.” It was a blue hippopotamus that triggered the finger sucking response. She named it Aymo and she was so attached to it. “Where is Aymo?” “I want Aymo.” “Have you seen Aymo?” “Can you bring me Aymo?

Aymo was a big part of her life. She couldn’t fall asleep without him. But something had to be done about Aymo. Eventually, we hid the blue hippo high up in a closet.

The transition to this point had to be well thought through and I had to be resolute about the decision to stop her finger sucking. Everyone in the family and in our house was of the same mind and cooperated with the plan.

First, I talked to her about being a big girl. She really wanted to put on nail polish but I told her that she could not do so if she continued to suck her fingers. One time, I let her paint her nails but the deal was that we would tape her two fingers so she would not be able to suck them. Tiana agreed but by night time, she began to realize what that really meant. For the first two weeks, it was a challenge to help her break the habit. But we persisted.

I would hold her to sleep at night so she could have another form of security and comfort instead of Aymo and finger sucking. And I showed her how to hug a new doll, whom she named “Elmo.” As an added incentive, I told her she would get a new toy if she got through 5 days without sucking her fingers. She made it and got a purple pony – Princess Luna. On the second week, she went through withdrawal and wanted to give in but I continued to encourage her and pray with her. We would pray, “Dear Lord, please help Tiana to stop sucking her fingers. Please help her to sleep well even if she can’t suck her fingers…” I would continually tell her, “I know it is hard but mommy is going to help you. we will do this together. Jesus is going to help you, too.”

Well, I am happy to say that it has been almost 30 days since we put her on her no-more-sucking-fingers-program. She can put herself to bed without tape on her fingers or having me hold her to sleep. The calluses on her fingers are beginning to go away. And she is still her happy, sweet self, learning to live without Aymo in her life.

I thought I would write about this because I believe in being persistent when training a child. Certain bad habits cannot be ignored and need to be weeded out in a loving way. My brother-in-law and sister are both dentists and they told me that sucking her fingers would eventually affect her jaw and teeth.

So I reminded myself…this is for her greater good. I am writing down what worked for Tiana in case other moms out there have a child with a similar habit:

1. I set a goal together with her.
2. I got everyone in the home on board with the plan — Edric, her siblings and the house help.
3. I assured her that I was going to help her and take care of her.
4. We prayed together when she would start to cry or remember her fingers, inviting Jesus to be a part of her victory.
5. I provided alternatives to Aymo — getting to fall sleep beside mommy and another stuffed toy to hug.
6. There was an incentive — a new toy for each milestone. One time it was a toy pony, another time it was clothes.
7. We used a lot of positive affirmation. Everyone in the house affirmed her and encouraged her as she was going through her withdrawal stages.
8. We split up the habit-breaking into phases.

1st phase…medical tape with Aymo still around. Mommy putting Tiana to bed. Reward for persistence.

2nd phase…medical tape with no more Aymo, replaced by another stuffed toy. Mommy putting Tiana to bed. Reward for persistence.

3rd phase…no more tape, no need for stuffed toys (optional). Aymo hidden in the closet. No more need for mommy or rewards.

9. Consistency! There were times when I really felt her sorrow. She would express to me that it was very hard. But, I had to be consistent and fixated on the goal of liberating her from this habit, reminding myself to finish what we started for her greater good. And we did!

So far, so good. Finger-sucking days are over! And Tiana seems to have matured in a big way, too. Hooray!

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Positively, Sweetly

I want our home to be a contagiously encouraging environment. Some days ago I wrote about affection as a powerful motivator, but so is affirmation. My children languish under harsh criticism and negativity, but they bloom when they are acknowledged and encouraged. And if there is anything we should be sparing with as parents, it is the use of punitive words that tear our children down. I’m guilty of this at times, especially when I’m trying to compel my kids to respond to my authority. And if I am not careful, I can really discourage them.

Last Saturday, for example, I was frustrated with Elijah when he spilled chocolate milk on his white shirt. He was supposed to perform a violin piece at an event and all I asked him was, “Please don’t get anything on your shirt.” However, in the car, he carelessly forced a straw into his chocolate milk drink and it splattered on him. This agitated me. I looked at the speckled portions of his shirt and thought, how am I going to fix this?!

I turned to him and with an obviously aggravated tone said, “I warned you to be careful and to take care of your shirt. Why did this happen?” He went on to explain that it wasn’t his fault. It was the tetra pack, the angle that he was sitting at, etc. etc. And I counteracted with, “You have to use your brain. It’s not complicated to avoid getting your shirt dirty.” These weren’t the kindest words to use and I knew it, but I was so irritated that he couldn’t follow simple instructions.

When we got to the venue, I asked someone if they could watch my bag so I could go and clean Elijah’s shirt because he spilled chocolate on it. This hurt Elijah’s feelings. He started to cry when he was alone with me and he asked, “Why did you have to tell (so-and-so) that I spilled chocolate? I felt embarrassed.”

Really?! I thought. I don’t have time to massage emotions right now! I’m in the middle of trying to remedy this shirt issue.

So I dismissed his feelings and retorted, “You need to acknowledge that you weren’t careful, apologize and stop making excuses for what you did.” My heart wasn’t right. I wasn’t gentle. I was upset.

Edric noticed that Elijah wasn’t alright so he took him aside and they spoke for a while. After a few minutes, I was summoned. Uh-oh. Edric asked me why I embarrassed Elijah. I began to clarify that it wasn’t intentional. But he interjected and reminded me that I had hurt Elijah’s feelings nonetheless so I needed to apologize to him. Oh my, this parenting business can be so humbling!

Edric was right. I had to say sorry. When Elijah and I were together, I sincerely asked for his forgiveness. My insensitivity was wrong and I had failed to understand his feelings. Elijah readily forgave me. We reconciled and I gave him a big hug until he felt better.

God used this incident as a reminder to be very cautious with the manner in which I correct my children. I may not yell or shout but I can word-weave painful statements that can cut deep. Or sometimes, I blurt out brainless, tackles things without thinking of the resulting effect on the hearts of my kids (or even Edric).

“But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men…from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.” James 3:8-11

Parenting constantly reveals the many areas where I need to improve and taming my tongue is one of them. How can I say this in a way that will build my kids up? Should I not say anything right now and wait till later? What will the repercussions of my words be?

I think back on the way my parents treated my siblings and I, and I have learned some valuable lessons from them. Their default disposition was to be affirming. One of the things they “specialized” in was instilling God-confidence. They repeated this often: “You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.” (Philippians 4:13). Therefore, we had pretty healthy perspectives on ourselves — not self-esteem, which is to think of much of ourselves — but we believed that with God’s help, we could overcome obstacles or accomplish challenging tasks. We weren’t the most brilliant or talented bunch, but thanks to the encouragement of our parents, we knew that Christ was our enabler.

The second thing they did was to generously commend right conduct and godly character. This motivated us to live up to their positive expectations of us. It also made us consider the importance and value of character as a greater measure of success.

Edric and I are trying to apply the same approach with our kids. We don’t want them to have puffed up egos (which will be to their ruin), but we do want them to believe that God has gifted them for a special purpose. He is going to use their strengths, achievements, and even their weaknesses for his unique calling. Through him they can do all things.

We also applaud triumphs of character and decisions that glorify God. But it takes mindfulness and awareness on our part because we can miss those moments.

Sometimes, as parents, we can expect good character to be the minimum. Why should I compliment right behavior? That should be a given. Instead of noticing the positive, we can nit-pick on the negative. And while our children want to meet our expectations because they desire to please us, how much more joyful and motivated they are to do what is right when they are appreciated and built up…even for the small things.

On the plane ride back from Cebu, Edric and I sat the three boys in one row and Tiana was in between us. There were a bunch of kids acting up, crying and fussing throughout the plane. I looked across the aisle and saw our kids sitting down properly, seat belts on, quiet and compliant. Part of the reason was that they were dead tired from a long day of activity. But it meant a lot to me that I didn’t have to call out across the aisle for them to remain in their chairs. I enjoyed a peaceful flight to Manila. When we were alone, I told them how much I appreciated their obedience, that it was a testament to their relationship with Christ, and it was a blessing to Edric and I. Edric echoed the same thing.

Affirmation doesn’t always have to be in the form of praise for character. I’ve also noticed that it is very effective to randomly take them aside and say things like…

“I love you so much. Do you know that mommy appreciates you?”

“Have I told you lately how special you are to me?”

“I really enjoy being with you. I like to spend time with you.”

My kids eat this up. It does wonders for their emotional tanks and their sense of security.

I don’t know any kid in this world who is not motivated by encouragement. The need to train and correct is a part of parenting but it can be balanced and cushioned with generous affirmation. And if we want to have a positive home environment, we need to exemplify what it means to be encouragers because our kids copy us!

Yesterday, I heard my 2 year old, Tiana, delightfully say, “Very good, Titus!” She said this in appreciation of a drawing that her older brother, Titus, had been working on. I heard her affirm him with her tiny sing-songy voice while I was in the bedroom and it put a smile on my face. Elijah remarked afterwards, “Tiana is trying to be like you, mom!” Well, all I can say to that is praise God! Inspite of my foibles here and there in the area of tongue management, the kids are learning to be affirming towards each other. That is of the Lord!:)

Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person. (Colossians 4:6 NASB)

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Be A Hugger Not a Slugger

There are days when my kids have a rough time dealing with homeschooling and all they need is a big, long hug to make it through. Yesterday, I was homeschooling Elijah at Edric’s office. I took the four kids with me, armed with art supplies and a couple of their books so they could be productive while waiting for me finish some last minute details for an event we had today.

It was my brilliant idea to have no help with me but I thought, it will be a good chance for the kids to step up and take care of one another. They were great. I was at the office from 8:30 AM to 7 PM and they made it through. In the morning, I sat them around a small table and assigned them their tasks for the day. There was a little bit of complaining, but for the most part, they did as they were told. Titus, who needs more one-on-one instruction, only got through 1 page of math work. But I thought, aw heck, it’s okay, we’ll make it up another day. I didn’t have time to sit down beside him. Elijah looked at his Language Arts material and started to get upset. “I can’t do this, mom! I can’t do this right.”

I came over to his side and said, “I know what you need. All you need is a big hug. Come here. Come to me.” Since Elijah is an affectionate child, he will never turn down the opportunity for a hug from mommy or daddy. He stood up, collapsed into my arms and I held him really tightly. “I love you, hon.” And I hugged him in the most reassuring way I could and he began to smile. “Do you feel better?” I asked him. “I do, mom. Thanks.” He sat back down in front of the same book and completed his work.

Titus (who is also very affectionate), called out to me, “What about me, mom? Can you hug me, too?” I also took him in my arms and gave him a very big hug.

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Touch and affection have proven to be helpful remedies to my children’s frustrations, especially when they are studying. During many occasions I have used a back rub, massage, hug or kiss on the cheek to calm my kids down so they feel relaxed when they are learning. I’ve had instances when Edan has cried out, “Mom, I need help!” And I will come over to where he is sitting and he will say, “Can you massage my back?” So I will rub his back for a while and then, when I forget to keep going, he will point to his back again and say, “Mom…massage…”

Sometimes, I don’t have the spiritual presence of mind to be so tender towards my kids, especially when I’m focused on accomplishing a goal. I can be a verbal “slugger” used in the sense of “someone who delivers hard swinging punches.” Like, mouthing out bible verses, lecturing about attitude, yakking about what they ought to do and how they ought to behave. But after attending a talk on the power of touch, I thought that maybe I could use it with my kids during homeschooling. And it has worked wonders to motivate them when they are struggling through a lesson. It also helps to keep me composed so I can respond in a gentle, spirit-filled way. Hugging makes me relax, too! How can I be annoyed while I am embracing my kids?! When I hug them I realize how much I do love them, how much I want to be a mom that is an encourager. So it is mutually beneficial!

My children can be “weak” emotionally speaking because they are still in the process of maturing so I like how 1 Thessalonians 4:14-15 reminds me to,” admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people.”

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. Leo Buscaglia

In the Trenches – What I Like

Last weekend, I was in Cebu with Edric and the kids. No yaya. Wow. It was slightly crazy and wonderful at the same time. Part of the reason we were there was to talk about homeschooling. I was asked to give a testimony as someone who is in the trenches of it. That’s definitely me! So here is my take on homeschooling in a nutshell. I’ve broken up my testimony into two parts and taken bits and pieces from old posts to summarize What I like About Homeschooling and What I’ve Learned as A Homeschooling Mom

What I like About Homeschooling:

Free-flowing Lessons. Learning happens very naturally in the home. Teaching and training my children are not confined to a set period of the day. It doesn’t just happen in the study room of our home. I have four kids at different stages of learning so if I were to do a classroom set-up, I wouldn’t have enough time in the day to teach my kids like a conventional school would. Instead, I let my kids’ learning happen outside of textbooks and workbooks. Learning happens naturally through dialogue and discussion, hands-on experiences, modeling, games, reading and telling stories, socializing with family members or friends, and lots of creative play. I do give my kids workbook and textbook time, as well as writing exercises and tests. But, these conventional learning methods don’t dictate how, what, and when my children learn.

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A typical day for our family would be the kids waking up at 7 AM and we have breakfast as a family. By 8:30 or 9 AM we start our lessons. With each child I will cover three to four subject areas. My older son, Elijah, is a pretty independent learner so he can do most of his work on his own. We will read History and Science together because he likes the discussion and interaction time we have when we go through these subjects. In the meantime, my second son, Edan, will be doing his lessons with lots of breaks in between. And when I’m preoccupied with my youngest son, Titus, Edan act as my teacher’s assistant or entertainer. He will help teach Tiana, my fourth child, and keep her busy. I work more closely with Titus because he needs one-on-one instruction. And after about 45 minutes he is done with his “academics” and will work with manipulatives or have free play time with his sister. Everyone is doing something productive between 9 and 12 noon, but it isn’t always sitting down at a desk. In the afternoons, the kids can read, pursue their hobbies, practice their violin, and rest. I rest, too!

A Customized Education – tailor fit to my child’s needs. At home, with one-on-one instruction, it is much easier for a parent to adjust to the learning needs of her child. Titus is a kinesthetic child but like my two older boys, he learned to read early because I modified my approach with him. Phonics instruction was kept short and sweet. We didn’t do too much writing until he was really ready. And I let him have lots of time to play with dough, scissors, glue, marbles…basically anything to help him develop his fine motor skills.

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My simple philosophy for teaching my kids is this: All children are equipped to learn and they can develop a genuine love for learning, but a parent must be willing to discover and investigate how her child learns best, welcome the adjustment it requires on her part, and look to the Lord for the supernatural creativity, insight, wisdom and ability that this kind of inspired teaching requires.

At home, children have true play. They can engage in self-initiated activity without the pressure of outcomes. They are challenged to be creative, to conceptualize, and to problem solve while they play. And they have hours and hours to play! I really feel like they get to have an extended childhood that isn’t cut short by the over scheduling and time consuming homework that school-going kids have to deal with.

Learning along-side my children. I have never been excellent in math. I used to dislike it immensely until I started homeschooling my kids. When I became a “math teacher,” I had to re-learn math from the ground up. From pre-school math to upper elementary math (where I find myself now), I am both student and teacher to my kids. When Elijah was in 3rd grade, I peaked at the answer key in the back of his math book when we encountered a word problem I was stumped on (can you believe it?! 3rd grade?!) and he got really upset. He said, “Now you won’t solve the problem with me!” He enjoyed the fact that we solved the problems together. It didn’t matter to him that I wasn’t a math expert and this didn’t keep him from learning. He wanted me to learn along-side him. Nowadays, he uses Kahn Academy to teach himself math.

I call this approach to homeschooling the “teamwork” approach. It is experiencing the process with my kids, encouraging them and inspiring them to learn by making it fun. And often times, their definition of fun is having me beside them.

Cultivating relational intimacy between siblings / between parent and child. Adidas used to have a tag line for basketball. Basketball is a brotherhood. Well, for my boys, homeschooling is a brotherhood. My kids are growing up to be best friends and they often say they are. Homeschooling has a lot to do with it because they are together so often and have to work out their differences, defer to one another, and love one another unconditionally. God has really knit the hearts of my children to one another. They hold each other accountable for responsibilities like violin practice, reading their bibles and praying together. And they have each other’s backs. Elijah recently told me, “I protect my brothers and I stick up for them.”  Someday, they will benefit from each other’s spiritual support and encouragement to weather the storms of life. Developing a loyalty to one another when they are young will have a lot to do with that.

My siblings and I were homeschooled for a time. And it proved to be such an amazing bonding experience, we remain close to this day. We enjoy getting together with our families, sharing meals and conversations, watching movies, playing games and sports, etc. My parents taught us to prioritize loving your family members before friends and this has carried on into our adulthood.

Dr. Gordon Neufeld, a foremost child developmental and clinical psychologist from Canada made this statement during a talk he gave on Why Home Education Works. “Homeschooling provides the optimum environment for a child to mature into a healthy and whole person who can achieve his fullest potential. Years of research and study show that a child was designed to be raised and educated at home because the most important element in a child’s development towards maturity is his attachment to those who are responsible for him – his parents.” He is not even an advocate of homeschooling. He is an advocate of child development.

He cites the following reasons:

  • At home, children have continuity of contact with their parents. Schools separate children from their parents and foster competing attachments with peers.
  • At home parents taken on the responsibility of pursuing their child relationally. This gives a child rest from the work of attachment. He doesn’t have to strive for the attention or affections of his parent. When children have to work for love or affection, they do not grow or mature.
  • At home, a child faces less separation and less wounding (ideally) so that his heart stays soft and pliable. At school a lot of wounding occurs, especially among peers. This causes a flight from vulnerability and a child develops hardness of heart.
  • At home, parents can support the maturity process. They can handle the stages a child goes through, the questions and the struggles.

I would like to add that at home, parents can continually assure their child, “nothing will separate you form my love…not your attitude, not your behavior, I love you no matter what, but because I love you, I am committed to helping you change and improve.”

Homeschooling has most certainly turned the heart of Edric towards our kids. And he has chosen to be very involved in their lives. This has been a special blessing for our family. The conviction to be a hands-on, intentional father came when Edric began to think about the goals of our parenting and homeschooling.

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Influence. Dr. Neufeld also explained that children want to be like those whom they are attached to. They will give their heart to those whom they are attached to. They want to be known and reveal their secrets to those whom they are attached to.

He brought up this very important point: When did your child fall in love with you? When did you child give you his heart? We were never meant to deal with a children whose hearts we did not have. If you do not have the heart of your child, you will not have the context in which to bring him to his fullest potential. If you do not have his heart, you will not have his mind.

Homeschooling allows Edric and I to impact the hearts and minds of our kids because they are very much attached to us. Because we spend the most time with them, we naturally have the most influence, too.

Teaching a Biblical World-view. No education is neutral. No child is neutral. Every child has an orientation towards God or away from God. Edric and I don’t want our children to be bombarded with secular messages and worldviews that will turn them away from a God-ward orientation. So we filter what they learn through the word of God. We protect our children from wrong kinds of indoctrination by peers, teachers, school curriculums and systems that promote humanism vs. theism.

David Sant said, “All education is indoctrination into a religious worldview…All education is undergirded by presuppositions about the origin of the universe, the origin of man, the purpose of man, ethics government relationships between men, and the continuing existence of the universe in an orderly and predictable manner. It is an inescapable fact that all of these basic assumptions are fundamentally religious. Therefore we must view the schoolroom as the place where children are indoctrinated into the religion of their society. The school is, in effect, a temple.”

In a climate of postmodern thinking which has removed God from the picture and promoted the ideas of moral subjectivity, pluralism and relativism, there is a need more than ever before to teach our children the truths that God has given us in his word. When Elijah was 3, he asked us, “What if there is no God…what will happen?”  It was a valid question. Who would have answered this for him if we weren’t around?

As parents, we need to be able to answer key questions that will impact our children’s belief system and determine their choices and actions: Who is God? Who Am I? What on Earth Am I here for? Edric and I aren’t willing to gamble our children’s future convictions by leaving this task up to others.

The faithfulness of God. We chose to homeschool in faith, in obedience to the Lord. We continue to do so, despite our limitations and imperfections to find that God is faithful. Every year that I teach the kids, I look back and think, how did we survive last year and manage to finish everything?! I’m always in awe of how God comes through for us. He is the one who makes my kids excited about learning. He is the one who helps them to learn. They are doing well inspite of me!

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