Archives for March 2013

In the Trenches – What I’ve Learned

Homeschooling Life-Lessons (So far):

The quality of homeschooling is very much affected by the quality of my relationships in the home – with the Lord, with my husband, Edric. When Edric and I have tension in our marriage or our emotional tanks aren’t full, I don’t feel like homeschooling. If I am spiritually off because I’ve been disobedient to the Lord, I am not effective at teaching my kids. If I am shackled down by hurt, bitterness, anger, then I am not free to love my kids. And how can I be a good teacher if I cannot love? 1 Corinthians 13 says, “If I am a gifted speaker, but do not have love, I am just an ugly sound. If I have supreme knowledge and understanding, and I am so full of faith I can move mountains, but I do not have love, I am nothing. The best teachers aren’t those who know everything but those who love God and with his love, are able to love others. Love compels me to be patient and understanding when teaching my kids.

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Homeschooling is a life of faithIt is easy to get tornadoed by circumstances, on lookers, the opinions of others, my own failings and insecurities and my children’s areas of weakness. But the Bible says, “For we live by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7) The fears I have about homeschooling may be natural and founded. I go through moments of doubt, especially self-doubt. But when I am reminded that this is God’s call and respond in faith no matter what my fears may are, I experience God’s enablement. “For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’” (Isaiah 41:13)

Homeschooling is the most costly education in the world.

The Cost of Modeling: My children are watching and listening to me. When my eldest was about 3 years old, he was sitting in the back seat of the car listening to Edric and I have a conversation that became heated. We weren’t shouting at each other but we were clearly agitated. We had forgotten that Elijah was in the back seat and he poked his head in between the two front seats and said, “Dad you should use a happy voice with mommy. And mommy you should listen to daddy.” Edric and I laughed out loud because he was absolutely correct. He had been watching and listening to our dialogue the whole time and God used him to remind us that we need to be careful of our example.

Our Children COPY us either positively or negatively! Sometimes it is the negative behaviors that they copy more than the positive ones. When Edric and I noticed that one of our sons was becoming a moody person, we had to check our own examples. Edric realized that he was probably copying him, so he apologized to the family for being grumpy. He even apologized to the househelp!

Since we are with our kids so often, we must be able to say, “Do what I say and do,” not, “Do what I say not what I do.” One time I caught my kids being mean to one another and shouting, so I asked them, “Do you see mommy or daddy doing that to you? We don’t do that because it is hurtful and it isn’t pleasing to God. If you love God and you love each other, you won’t do things to hurt one another.” I couldn’t have done this if I shouted and lost my temper at home. As parents, Edric and I have to continually model loving God, loving others, humility, integrity, forgiveness, submission to authority, and the fruit of the spirit. It isn’t easy!

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The Cost of Time: You give your time, energy, effort, your life. If I continue homeschooling my kids through high school, I will be teaching for over 20 years! I can’t even imagine how long that will be! But until God says stop, our family doesn’t plan to. For better or for worse, I’m going to homeschool. What’s the cost to me? My youth (what’s left of it). My liberties. My personal ambitions and desires. My comfort. My space. My contribution to family income and the list goes on…But I have no regrets so far. This is a long term investment with the promise of eternal dividends.

Homeschooling takes all day because homeschooling is discipleship. When parents ask me, “How long do you homeschool?” I usually say, the kids do their work in the morning. But the more accurate answer is that it really takes all day. So much of what happens in between the actual work, throughout the many interactions I have with my kids, is the actual homeschooling. It’s not about the number of subjects that I teach or how much time that part takes. It’s about discipleship. Discipleship makes the academic instruction easier.

When the acquisition of knowledge is the priority, then I can start to get angry, irritated and impatient when my academic goals for the kids are blocked. If they aren’t cooperative or motivated, I can feel annoyed. And I may want to push, push, push. What am I pushing towards? I may get them to comply externally and complete 10 pages of their math book in one sitting but their heart is far way from me, for away from the Lord. I don’t want to settle for that kind of education in our home. I want my kids to grow deeper in love with Jesus; their hearts to remain teachable and receptive to instruction; and I want them to internalize godly values and character. That is homeschooling. And that takes all day, every day.

Homeschooling takes commitment to a vision – a beautiful hope. I look forward to the day when Edric and I can present our kids before the Lord – grown men and women, who are 100% in love with their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ…men and women who are fulfilling God’s purpose for their lives and making a positive difference in the world, for the glory of God. When I fixate on this vision, it keeps me going. There is a proverb that says, Without vision the people perish. Similarly, if I get caught up in the small stuff, the day to day stresses of homeschooling, I can lose sight of the grander vision and feel like giving up. So I have to stay focused on the more important goal – the reason why I am homeschooling.

Homeschooling is not the answer to the world’s problems.  If I am not careful, I can become a fanatic for home education – a legalist who believes that parents who don’t homeschool are somehow “less enlightened, less loving, less pleasing to God.” Well, that is a totally incorrect perspective. It is outright cultish! At the end of the day, the command is “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might…and teach this diligently to your children as often as you can, whenever you can, for as long as you can.” (Deuteronomy 6:5-7 paraphrased) The reality is you can be homeschooling and not be teaching your children to love the Lord at all. Homeschooling is not the antidote to the problem of the world. It doesn’t save a family from the consequences of sin or guarantee that children will be protected from worldly evil or influence. It doesn’t solve relationship problems within the family or cure the character flaws of parents and kids. The only real hope and answer to the world’s problems is Jesus. He is the one who changes families and changes the world through families.

So whether a family should choose to homeschool over a conventional school or keep homeschooling, bear in mind that whether we homeschool or not, we need to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and raise our children to do the same. That’s what all parents will be held accountable for. Edric and I just so happen to believe that homeschooling gives us the best conditions to do this.

Homeschool is successful only by God’s grace. Who am I? Who am I to have the circumstances that I do, the resources available to me, the husband, and the children that bring me so much joy? They are God’s gifts to me. I don’t deserve them or any of his blessings. It is grace. God’s grace. If anyone should look upon my children and affirm their abilities or talents, the credit does not go to me, Edric, our kids, or even to homeschooling. Everything is by God’s grace alone.

Homeschooling is an invitation to experience God’s grace. I believe in doing my part. But the results are always a testament, not to my ability to teach or train my children, or the magic of the homeschooling experience, but to the grace of God. It isn’t the easiest season of a mother’s life but it is a season of grace, and a season of grace is a season of joy. After 10 years of being a homeschool mom (I started homeschooling when my first child was born!), I still think it is the best education in the world and I still enjoy it with all my heart!

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Read the prequel if you haven’t yet…What I like About Homeschooling

 

Homeschooling Solutions Grand Launch!

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Going Back to the Garden (Part 2) – Intimacy in Marriage


DSC06264 copyAs my husband, Edric, becomes more of a public personality because of his TV hosting, he gets more attention from the opposite sex. I suppose this comes with the territory when you are on television. And as I was reflecting on how this might impact our relationship, I thought of writing an article on intimacy in marriage – Going Back to the Garden (Part 2).

Marriage will have to weather many seasons. But even if external factors may change, Edric and I have learned some important life lessons that have preserved the relational intimacy between us. I hope these insights will also make a difference for young married couples who want to get it right from the start.

Honesty and open communication. It isn’t always easy to tell each other our struggles, failings, and fears, but doing so has helped to build and maintain trust. Edric knows that I don’t have secrets and neither does he. Even though we risk hurting each other and bearing the shame of our wrongs when we choose to be honest, especially about sin, accountability makes our relationship stronger. The Bible says, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed…” (James 5:16 NASB)

One of the benefits of openness in marriage is that it invites the power of prayer. When Edric shares with me his temptations or struggles, it allows me to pray for him very specifically so that he can be victorious over sin. (He does the same for me.) Since we practiced open communication early on in marriage, there isn’t a stockpile of unconfessed sins and offenses that have built up that can cause grave damage in the future.

I imagine that it would be incredibly difficult for a spouse to divulge past sins and failures that were never talked about. And it would be incredibly difficult to listen without being deeply wounded or embittered if you were to be deluged by a sudden confession that you did not see coming. So it is a healthy practice to make honesty a habit from the very beginning of a marriage. It is certainly “easier” rather than realizing, later on, that you have not been honest about many things that you ought to have been.

For example, how do you start being honest about an affair because you want to try and restore your marriage? There is no simple way to break that kind of news! So do the preventive thing and express your feelings and uncover issues early on. It is much more challenging to rebuild and regain trust after it has been broken.

I remember occasions when Edric would say to me, “Hon, I am starting to feel awkward and uncomfortable about so-and-so (a woman). I want you to keep me accountable so I am telling you.” Being able to say this before it ever blossoms into something nips any potential threat to our intimacy in the bud.

Be a good listener to your spouse. If you want to encourage open communication, listening is key. “This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.” (James 1:19 NASB) God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason!

When Edric shares with me his struggles in the area of purity, I can be prideful and retaliate with self-centeredness when I am not Christ-centered. So, it is only by God’s grace that I am able to suspend subjectivity to understand that his truthfulness is an attempt at preserving the intimacy between us. Therefore, I try my best to listen instead of being combative or judgmental. I want him to know that his heart is safe with me.

Don’t be a policewoman. I don’t want the stress of worrying about Edric’s purity. I have turned that over to God by praying for him and our marriage. His faithfulness is not my burden to bear. Years ago, I remember saying, “Hon, if you are going to do something that displeases God, that’s between you and him. If you want to forfeit his blessing in your life, that’s your choice.” Edric knows I trust him because I trust that he loves God and wants to please him. God is watching over Edric and his choices, and mine, too.

Who can really know what happens in private, in the deepest parts of who we are? As transparent as we may want to be with one another, only God can uncover every nook and cranny to purify us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. One of my prayers for Edric is, “Lord, please help Edric to love you with all of his heart. Please help him never to come close to adultery. Keep his eyes, heart, and mind pure. Please protect him from evil women. And please help him to have eyes only for me and…help us to have a great sex life!” Hey, that’s a biblical prayer! 😉

Be overly cautious. No one is impervious to temptation. I remember my mom saying that Satan often uses the back door entrance into a person’s life. He rarely comes in the front. The Bible says, “Therefore let him who think he stands take heed that he does not fall.” (1 Corinthians 10:12 NASB)

Now, more than ever, Edric knows that he has to be careful to avoid people and places that could lead to compromise, so he tells me, “I can’t let my guard down.” But it is the same for me. I may not be hounded by a fan base of men in the same way that women crush on him but I have to make sure I don’t act flirty, too friendly, or try to get the attention of men.

Another thing I learned from my mom: When you start to find yourself thinking things like, “I wonder if this guy finds me attractive?” Or, “I wonder what he thinks about me?” that is a warning flag! (If he is not your husband, of course.)

Grow closer as you grow older. The gravitational pull on a marital relationship is towards growing apart. So we need to keep cleaving to one another — sharing passions, dreams, and activities that make you better friends. Last night I was having dinner with my parents and at one point my dad talked about how my mom is his buddy, his best friend. They thoroughly enjoy one another’s company. A couple of weeks ago, I found out that my parents-in-law escaped for the day to go on a movie marathon — just the two of them. I hope Edric and I can also be as excited to spend time with one another years and years down the road, too.

Meet your spouse’s emotional and physical needs. Edric has mastered the art of romancing Joy Mendoza, which does wonders for intimacy. Affirmation, affection, encouragement, compliments, outrageous professions of love and loyalty, chivalrous deeds…these gestures and demonstrations are big deposits in our relationship.

The other day, I called him to ask for prayers because my stomach was hurting so badly. Without hesitating, he asked, “Do you want me to leave? I can go there right now. You know I will drop everything for you.” I said it was okay and that I just needed his prayers. Thankfully, within a few hours, I felt better. Just knowing he was willing to interrupt all his plans for the day to be with me was comforting enough. It mattered a lot to know that of all the people in his life, he is most mindful of me.

As for me, I need to make sure Edric knows that he is my priority, that he has my respect and admiration. Of course, this includes meeting his sexual needs. I’ve talked to women who withhold sex because of all kinds of reasons. From pregnancy (some pregnancies are delicate, so fine), breastfeeding, fatigue, disinterest, age, don’t need it, don’t want it, not a big part of our relationship, etc. Whatever. Sex is an indicator of relational intimacy. An enjoyable sex life is part of God’s design for marriage. It is also a form of protection.

“The husband should fulfill his wife’s sexual needs, and the wife should fulfill her husband’s needs. The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband gives authority over his body to his wife. Do not deprive each other of sexual relations, unless you both agree to refrain from sexual intimacy for a limited time so you can give yourselves more completely to prayer. Afterward, you should come together again so that Satan won’t be able to tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” (1 Corinthians 7:3-5)

I’d like to quote my mom again for a very life-changing suggestion about sex that she passed on to me. “When you get married and your husband wants to have sex, remember the Nike slogan. Just do it.”

What about a woman’s sexual needs? Women are responders. If we feel cherished and appreciated, secure in the love of our husbands, Nike is not necessary!

Keep short accounts with one another. Don’t postpone asking for forgiveness. Don’t let unforgiveness linger. In some families, it is the norm NOT to say sorry. Family members just move on after a fight or conflict like nothing happened. Yet, dismissing issues, offenses and hurt is like collecting a huge reservoir of pain that can explode at any time. It will be a continual wedge to true intimacy when unresolved issues get compounded. And compounding interest is not pretty!

Similarly, a person who is bitter and unforgiving is repelling to be with. It’s very unpleasant to be married to a spouse who habitually resurrects past mistakes and failures, or uses them as ammunition. Colossians 3:12-13 says,“Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourself with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” (NLT)

The most important: walk intimately with the Lord. Intimacy between Edric and I begins when we are intimate with God first. The secret to overcoming personal sin, especially something like immorality, is to fall more in love with Christ. Hebrews talks about “laying aside every encumbrance, and fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith.” The more we look to Christ, the more we will want to imitate and follow him. Our preoccupations will be pleasing to him and we will fear the consequences of sinning against him. We will want to be holy and pure.

When I was struggling with purity in college, it was my relationship with God that made me want to change. I thought, I cannot call myself a follower of Christ and continue in sinful behavior. I cannot say that I love God with all my heart if I am doing things that displease him.

In marriage, I have to depend on God’s work in Edric’s life to keep him pure. Do I constantly check his email, browsing history, Facebook, and cell phone? First off, I always forget his passwords so I can’t. Ha ha. His policeman is the Holy Spirit. And because there is open communication between Edric and I, he voluntarily shows me messages that women send him, whether platonic or questionable, or he will tell me if he stumbled in the area of purity. Sometimes, God will give me the inkling to ask him if he is okay in the purity area and Edric will be honest with me.

Purity in marriage is a team effort between God, Edric and me. By God’s grace, we have not experienced the damaging effects of infidelity. By God’s grace, we are still in love. But we know that it is not because of who we are or even the love we have for one another. God is the center, the glue that has held our marriage together and continues to bind it still. He is the covering of protection when our marriage is attacked from within and without. And he is the restorer when there is brokenness and hurt. With him in our marriage, we are able to go back to the garden to experience the sweet intimacy that he designed for a husband and wife.