Pajama Stocks

We sat around the dinner table with family some time ago and my brother in law, Joel, found out that Elijah started investing in the stock market last year. Elijah talked about what companies he had picked to invest in and the rational behind his choices. And he said this all while wearing pajamas. It just seemed a little bit funny I suppose, that a 9 year old (this was before he turned 10), would be chatting about financial investments. So Joel said, “Why don’t you write an article about it and call it ‘Pajama Stocks.’” I thought…that’s a great title. I love it. But I had put it off until today, when Edric asked me to have Elijah share about how he ventured into it to encourage parents to teach their kids to start being financially literate early.

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Here is what he wrote (with some help from me):

I first became interested in financial markets two years ago. My dad had asked me if I wanted to invest in stocks and we did some research together online to understand the process better. My dad told me to fill out the online form of Citisec but I actually lost the form and forgot about it.

It wasn’t until last year, when I was 9, that I became interested again, especially since my dad was hosting a money show. He would talk about financial investments often. And since he promised to help me set up an account, he told me that I would join a stock seminar with him so we could do it together. By then, the name of Citisec online had changed to COL Financial. 

I was so excited and nervous. I was in a room with a lot of adults, including my dad and I was the youngest person attending the seminar. The seminar took about two hours. It was very interesting. I learned about tips on investing and how the stock market works, and what companies were performing the best at that time.

For example, I learned that Jollibee had grown 40% from 2009 to 2011 because they kept reinventing. And a lot of people like to eat in Jollibee. The seminar was like a homeschool lesson for me.

When we got home, my dad told me he would give me a fund to work with but I had to do research. A lot of research. For one whole day I looked up different companies from different categories, like financial, services, industrial, property, holding firms, and mining and oil. All this information is available on pse.com.ph.  My dad also gave me some advice. I was also able to study the background history of a few companies to track their performance over the years. What really helped me were the charts that showed how the companies have performed over time because I could see changes, gains and loses. One company even lost 500%! I am not going to tell you which one?

Several weeks later, while my dad and I were having one on one bonding time, he helped me set up my account and invest in my top picks. I chose BDO, BPI, Ayala Corporation, Aboitiz, Globe, and Ayala Land. Recently, I also added Meralco. My main criteria was to get companies that went up steadily for the last two years because I intended to do long term investments. That’s why I didn’t invest in mining and oil. I found their performances too wild.

The one exception was the company 2Go, which I plan to use for market timing. It will just be a short-term investment and experiment. Since it’s passport season for people going on vacation, I hope that its stocks will go up so I can sell them.

Since I invested in stocks last December, by God’s grace, my stocks have grown. I’ve earned a little bit of money and it makes me more excited. It also makes me realize that earning money is not easy!

Now, when my parents or people give me money, I think of how I can invest it again or, okay, buy online books because I love to read.

I’m still learning a lot about the stock market and actually, I just invested a small amount to get experience compared to what older people do. But I put it in as much as my dad gave me because he told me it’s not good to leave money lying idle in an account. It won’t grow. In the COL seminar, I learned that inflation rates are higher than interest rates. So it’s not good to leave money in a bank account, either. 

I’m thankful for this experience. And I think it would be helpful for other kids to learn how to manage money, too. We don’t have to wait until we are older. The earlier we start, the more time our investment has to grow. 

I’m praying that my investments will grow if it’s God’s will so that someday I can use it to bless others, to tithe, and to save.

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I’m embarrassed to admit that Elijah knows way more than I do about the stock market. One evening, when a female relative asked him why he didn’t invest in their company, Elijah replied, “Honestly, your company doesn’t have historicals in the PSE yet, and if you look at your growth last year, you only grew by 0.2%.” Everyone who was within ear-shot of this conversation started to laugh out loud. I was slightly floored. Who are you?! I thought, looking at Elijah. At the same time, I realized that homeschoolers have unique opportunities that other children don’t have. They have the advantage of time to pursue interests. Elijah would be swamped with homework if he were a 4th grade student in a conventional school. However, our homeschooling lifestyle allows him to explore and learn beyond books.

Some years ago, I created a tagline for one of TMA Homeschool’s advertisements, “The World is My Classroom. Is it Yours?” Just like his siblings, Elijah surprises me with lessons learned that are beyond the scope of what I have taught. It’s humbling and encouraging at the same time to know that my children are not limited by what I can give as a teacher. This is one of the benefits of homeschooling —  children have access to a world of experiences that no other conventional classroom can possibly give them.

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The Habit of “I Love You”

At 1:45 in the morning, I was in between dream state and wakefulness when Edric came in to the room and got into bed beside me. “I love you,” he whispered like he almost always does every night since we got married. I whispered back, “I love you, too.” And he took my hand and held it for a while.

Ever since I can remember, these have been his closing words right before he goes to bed, no matter what his day is like.  It could be a great day, a stressful one, or a day when we’ve had an argument and he doesn’t feel like saying “I love you.” But he says it nonetheless because he wants it to be the last thing I remember before I sleep.

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I remember the day we first met. We were sitting on a bench outdoors. It was during a Psychology 101 class. Our teacher brought us all outside while we presented our projects. Under the shade of a tree, Edric sat at one end of a blue bench and I sat at the other. The gravitational pull must have been pretty strong and we sort of got lost in our own little world, striking up a random conversation about God and faith. A curiosity bloomed. I found him honest and unpretentious. He told me later on that he was “mysteriously fascinated.” (I like that description.)

From then on, we seemed to run into each other more often. Edric actually timed his encounters with me and I would strategically place myself in areas where he could find me. But he had to look. I wasn’t going to dangle myself and make it too easy. It sounds like a game, eh? Well, I would like to quote what Edric once said to singles. “Guys like the chase, the challenge of pursuit, but they need to at least see a tail or some part of the deer that makes them hopeful.”

So I gave him a measure of hope. After all, I was interested in getting to know him, too. During our encounters, I was friendly and engaged, and he picked up on this. That was the “tail.”

We shared similar values, family cultures, and interests. But our personalities were quite different. Yet, we connected in the most important ways, especially spiritually. By my Junior year, we were a couple. If I could’ve done it over again, I wouldn’t have dated in college because Edric and I struggled with our physical relationship. I would’ve waited till after college, when we are at the marrying age. But God has since redeemed all of this.

In 2001, two years after graduating from college, Edric asked me to marry him. This was after we had broken up for 6 months to discern about marriage. I was 24 and he was 25.

I had prayed that Edric would be the one I walked down the aisle to. That time of separation purified our motives and gave us clarity about marriage. We received the blessing of his parents and my own, and four months after he proposed to me, we got married. No, we were not pregnant! We wanted a short engagement. After all, we were absolutely sure that God had called us to marriage so why wait any longer than necessary?

On July 22, I stood in front of Edric, said my vows and heard his, and we declared our commitment to one another. It was beyond incredible. But that version of I love you pronounced before God, family and friends had no real experience. It knew little of real commitment or unconditional acceptance.

The test came after the honeymoon, during the first years. It was then that Edric and I really began to understand that love is an unconditional commitment to an imperfect person for their highest good, which often requires sacrifice. We were two very selfish, prideful people in need of a good spanking from the Lord. He taught us what it really means to love one another. And over time, our love has endured through life’s seasons, by God’s grace.

Edric has loved me unconditionally, flaws and all. And each night that he says I love you means more to me than the day he put a ring on my finger. Why? Because this love has mileage! It has gone the distance and weathered the crazy ups and downs of marriage. It has been thrown into the “furnace” of experience and survived!

If you have been a follower of this blog, you know that I have written entries about our romance. We are big cheeseballs. Yet, at the end of the day, our relationship cannot be anchored on romance. It is a commitment we have made before God, to one another. Declaring “I love you” even when we don’t feel like it reaffirms this.

It’s a practice that has made a big difference in our relationship – a reminder that marriage is the habit of choosing to love your spouse, for better or for worse, and living out that choice the next day, and the next, for the rest of your life.

“Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth.” Proverbs 5:18

Spiritual Comedy

I just had to write about this. It was too hilarious. I won’t divulge names to protect the photographer who did this. But…I’ve never seen an uglier more corpse-like picture of Edric and I in my life! Edric looks like he had 5 rounds of plastic surgery. And, I look like a nightmarish rendition of Bella from Twilight, the demon version. I want to exorcise myself! Look at those blood-stained teeth and creepy eye bags and cheekbones…not to mention the unnatural palor of the skin.

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Before my sister-in-law, Denise and her husband, Fritz, left for the U.S. some weeks ago, Edric hired a photographer to take photos of the Mendoza family. The intention was brilliant. It would be the last time we would be together for a while. But with just a few days to find a photographer, Edric hired someone we don’t really know, a recommendation through Facebook. Even though we have a number of friends who are excellent photographers, Edric didn’t want to burden anyone of them with a last minute request.

This mystery photographer was actually a nice guy. And I think he was a decent photographer. The only problem is we didn’t pay him enough to bring lights and it was a night shoot. As a result, most of the photos he took had heavy shadows on them. Maybe he thought he could fix them with post-editing, but whoa!

One of the photos had severe shadows on Edric’s face and my own. Everyone else was very visible. When we asked him to do something about it, he must have gone a little bit overboard. I saw a glimpse of my future and it frightened the heck out of me! Is this what I will look like when I’m 70? Freaky beyond recognition?! I almost jumped out of my chair! And then I laughed and laughed uncontrollably because I couldn’t believe that someone would edit photos and submit them to a client thinking they would be acceptable. It was incredulous.

In fairness to him, he wasn’t given a lot to work with and the shadows were so heavy, he had to kind of reconstruct our faces. But wow, this could’ve qualified as one of those Photoshop-gone-bad moments that would’ve given people a good laugh. I’m still laughing.

I believe there is a spiritual lesson to be learned here. This photo is an obvious reminder that our physical bodies will decay. I really may look like that years from now and worse, and no amount of photoshop editing will be able to repair the reality of time.

2 Corinthians 4:16 to 18 says, “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

It’s a great reminder not to love the passing things of this world, including our physical bodies. Sometimes, I can be so vain and a real worrywart about getting heavy during my pregnancy. I obsess about counting each pound. In fact, I weigh myself every single morning so I can calculate how many calories I will consume. Edric tells me to relax and embrace my enlarging self. (And I think to myself, it’s easy for him to say because he doesn’t experience total body transformation and he doesn’t have to work to lose all the excess weight after.) But he is right. I really panic when I step on the scale and discover that I’ve gained a pound overnight. What?! Why?! Oh no, I ate too much rice! Oh no, I shouldn’t have eaten that cupcake!

Well, the photo was God’s way of telling me that the physical is going to fade away sooner or later. So stop focusing on it! I can still be conscious of what I eat, but don’t make weight concern an idol – something that robs my peace, controls me, makes me stressed and temporal-minded. Instead, I need to be channeling my energies towards “seeking the things above,” as Colossians 3 says it. “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”

We cannot stop ageing (at best, we can delay it), and we cannot hold on to the material things of this world forever, but we can cultivate the truest life and unfading beauty of the inward person that is found in Christ.

Oh, and I hope you got a good laugh, he he.

A Son Needs His Father

The other evening, Elijah was struggling with decision-making. Being the perfectionist that he is, he had been practicing his violin 3 hours every day for about a week. And he was beginning to feel stressed.

I did not ask him to do this and neither did Edric. It was his personal conviction to “try his best.” However, I became concerned when it seemed like he was bordering on legalism. He had no peace. It was troubling him deeply that he couldn’t sustain the 3-hour long practices.

So I told him, “Tonight, just practice for 30 minutes. Take a break.” He wrestled with this and replied, “But, I feel like it’s not enough, that I should do it for longer.”

“Elijah, I am your mom. I am your authority. I’m asking you to practice for just 30 minutes tonight because I want you to relax. You don’t need to practice for 3 hours.”

But this didn’t alleviate his stress. And I started to feel exasperated inside when he became emotional and dramatic.

I love Elijah. He is a tender-hearted son who is very sensitive to the Holy Spirit yet he was convinced that he wouldn’t be pleasing to God if he didn’t practice hard enough. Of course, this wasn’t a biblical perspective. He didn’t have to earn God’s favor by playing his violin.

Unfortunately, at that moment, I had to get ready for a dinner so I couldn’t have a long drawn out conversation with him. Edric, on the other hand, takes 5 minutes to get ready so he had time to spare. When he saw that Elijah was anxious and confused, he called him into our room to talk. They had a private conversation about how Elijah was feeling and what was going on in his head.

When the opportunity was right, Edric inserted the principle of obeying your parents and priorities. He reminded Elijah that God has ordained us as his authority. And he can trust that God speaks through us. So if we say he doesn’t need to practice for 3 hours then he can rest assured that following what we say is what God wants him to do.

Then he talked about priorities. He explained to Elijah that it’s a good thing to do your best. However, there are other responsibilities and activities that Elijah needs to get done in a day. So if violin eats into everything else then he’s focusing too much on his violin. Edric used the example of his own life and the decisions he has to make as a man when ordering his priorities.

Elijah breathed a sigh of relief after he heard this and he said, “Thank you, Dad. I really look up to you. When I make decisions, I think about what you would do.”

Sons need heart-to-heart moments with their fathers. I couldn’t have comforted and assured Elijah in the same way that Edric did. Since their talk, he hasn’t been plagued with unnecessary guilt about his violin practices. He has been enjoying them instead.

Edric’s mentorship provides our sons with a different kind of security and confidence than my mothering does. As our sons grow into their manhood, they look to Edric more and more to teach them how to be men and navigate through life. It amazes me how responsive they are to Edric’s guidance and I am blessed that he is present and available to meet their needs. But, I’m also reminded to keep praying for him to be the kind of father they need him to be. And more importantly, I need to pray that he will be the father that God wants him to be. Mentoring three sons is a big responsibility. As sons need their fathers, fathers need their heavenly father to direct, instruct and teach them how to lead their families.

Psalm 25:4 Make me know Your ways, O Lord; Teach me Your paths.

I found these scrapbook pages in my old files from 4 years ago…It was something the kids and I made for Edric.

 

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Just Like Hannah (a re-post)

I pray you will be blessed by this testimony by a dear friend who prayed to have a child for many years…by  (Michelle Lopez Solon)

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“I want to have grand kids, so double time!” that was part of the speech of my father-in-law during our wedding 7 years ago. It was everyone’s well wish and expectation for us to conceive and have “mini-me’s” running around. But it was not an easy journey for us.

After a year of marriage and not conceiving, I visited the OB-GYNE to find out what can be done for me to get pregnant. My ultrasound showed I have polycystic ovaries. The doctor said that the cyst was small and it should not bother us. The only solution to this syndrome was to get pregnant. It seemed like an easy solution, but it was far from easy for us.

I remained very hopeful. My husband and I prayed, fasted, believed that we would get pregnant. Different options were given to us, pills, exercise, following a menstrual cycle for days of contact… however the months became years and I began losing faith.

I admit that I was getting disappointed with God. I would cry every time my period would come. It pierced my heart when people would ask why we were not getting pregnant and received their suggestions on what we should do. There was a year when everyone around me was getting pregnant (even my own dog!)… but I remained barren. It came to a point that I needed to blame someone for why I was not conceiving… I started to blame my husband because at that time he was not open to get himself checked. I wondered why God was not granting our request… I was getting bitter towards God so that I’d say “I don’t care if I don’t get pregnant.” Truthfully that was the total opposite. I did care.

God never gave up on me though. God was working on me, stretching my faith muscles. Through His Word he reminded me of Hannah. Years she was barren, mocked for being childless, and she too cried to God. Her account is found in the book of 1 Samuel 1.

 

v 10 “Hannah was in deep anguish, crying bitterly as she prayed to the Lord.”

But after Hannah cried to the Lord, she left this concern in faith, not in doubt or bitterness. After Eli (the priest) saw her in the temple crying he pronounced a blessing upon her and she left, no longer depressed.

 

v 18 “Then she went back and began to eat again, and she was no longer sad”

The bible accounts that “the Lord remembered her plea”; v 20 “and in due time she gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, for she said, “I asked the Lord for him.”

I had to learn to trust God’s plan and timing for everything and for everyone. I was becoming impatient and seeding doubt. Thank God for friends who never stopped praying for us, and that encouraged me to believe.

In 2010, my twin sister gave birth to her 3rd child, Jonathan David (JD). I was with her at the labor room, and I had the privilege to see her baby right after delivery. I held her little one in my arms, and began feeling hopeful again of God’s promise to me and my husband. The week after, I took a step of faith of seeing a specialist who would assess our situation. I was diagnosed with Endometriosis. The week after, I was wheeled in the operating room for a laparoscopic procedure to remove the adhesions and polyps in my uterus and the cysts on my ovaries.

I was a Stage IV Endometriosis patient. In short, infertile. But that did not stop me from believing that God can open my womb. My husband began to follow the footsteps of Isaac who prayed for his wife. Genesis 25:21 “Isaac pleaded with the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was unable to have children. The Lord answered Isaac’s prayer, and Rebekah became pregnant with twins.”

Okay, we did not have twins. But, 3 months after the procedure we were pregnant! I cried for joy for the Lord remembered me. However, on our 5th week check up, the doctor could not find the sac. My blood (hcg) test said I was definitely pregnant, the pregnancy test showed 2 lines. But there was no sac.

We started to pray, and I believed God would show us a miracle, that in the next test we would see the baby in the uterus. We flew to Manila to have myself checked there… The findings — possible ectopic pregnancy.

The doctor explained to me that I had to undergo another operation again. She also told me straight that I could lose one of my fallopian tubes if the baby implanted in it. I was crushed, my husband was too. Both of us were crying the night before getting confined in the hospital. I was grieving about losing this child. That night I could not sleep, I kept talking to God. “Lord, please tell my child how much I want to be his/her mom.” I was talking to my baby and telling my baby “I love you, you made me excited to be a mom. I already miss you even if we have never met. You must know I want to have you so much.”

Joy Mendoza, my close friend and discipler called and cried with me… She said, “I am so sorry Mit. How are you feeling?” In my heart, I was not angry at God. I told her, “I know this is God’s will. The mere fact he made me pregnant was already a miracle. I am not disappointed with Him.” I worried about losing my fallopian tube, but the doctor assured me that I could still get pregnant with just one tube.

That day in June 2011, I had another operation to remove the fetus before it ruptured my fallopian tube. After the procedure, when I opened my eyes in the recovery room, my husband told me this “Guess what… the baby was found in the abdomen, it implanted and found blood supply there. But the sac could not sustain so it was ready to be removed. So, they did not cut your fallopian tube. Your reproductive organs are all intact.” When I heard that I had peace. I thanked God for being so gracious, and for giving us a child that was so considerate to give way for another baby in the future by implanting in the abdomen rather than in the tube.

Like Hannah, I cried and grieved before the Lord, but God gave me extra grace and an increased faith. I had more confidence than before that I would conceive in God’s perfect time. Then, I moved on everyday believing that I would receive a child. In fact, there was no pain in my heart about the loss. I felt God’s presence and firm love for me and my future.

And true to God’s promise… I conceived again in April 2012, to our precious baby Joshua. God is indeed faithful, His love never fails. This is why I claim these verses as my life statements: “Everything is possible to him who believes” (Mark 9:23) and “For nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37)

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JOSHUA IS A HEALTHY, HANDSOME BABY BOY! EDRIC AND I WITNESSED HIS DEDICATION TWO MONTHS AGO. IT WAS AN AMAZING TESTAMENT TO HOW GOD’S TIMING IS ALWAYS PERFECT.

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Another Dimension to Love


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One of the things that has allowed Edric and I to grow closer to one another is serving the Lord. We are both burdened to minister to young couples and young families. Although we don’t say yes to every speaking engagement we are invited to, we have had many opportunities to team-teach. He usually does most of the teaching and I come in to share real-life examples from our marriage and parenting.

Just this past weekend, we spoke once again at the Before I Do Seminar organized by Imagine Nation Photography. This is a something we do at least twice a year. And every time, it is a joy to share marriage principles that have helped us stay together. These are bible-based principles on God’s Design for Marriage, Marital Roles, Communication, Conflict Resolution, Finances and Sex in Marriage. We don’t do all the speaking but Edric usually handles the first part of the day.

Whenever we finish the seminar, Edric will often say, “I really enjoy serving the Lord with you.” And I feel the same way.

The spiritual dimension of a marriage is key. It’s easy to become so self-focused and relationship-centric when you are a wife or husband. The tendency is to manage your own concerns, issues, and fulfill your own needs and wants. But then what? What’s next? This can get boring after a while or even, implosive.

I believe that one of the reasons why God brings two people together in marriage is to assemble a “dream team” that can better serve him and others. It always amazes me how a husband and wife can complement and support each other’s strengths and weaknesses. In so many of the effectively ministering couples at our church, they share this dynamic. If a husband is not organized, the wife tends to be. If a wife is more introverted, the husband tends to be more outgoing and personable.

When Edric and I got married, he was the more extroverted one. It wasn’t like I didn’t enjoy people. I just preferred my personal space and quiet. But I married a man who is charismatic, energetic, and a very good public speaker. He knows how to connect with all kinds of people. So this had a positive effect on the more reserved me. His example encouraged me to reach out to others and go outside of my comfort zone.

As for his public speaking, being on stage came naturally, but he had to learn how to really meditate on God’s word and dig deep for insights. This is where I came in as his helpmate. Because I am more of the reflective thinker, he would practice his messages on me and I would comment and help him to refine his content. In turn, he would help me work on my presentation skills and teach me how to develop better rapport with an audience.

The greater gift of being in ministry together is the accountability. Edric and I have to be careful about consistency. If we are going to talk about biblical principles on marriage or parenting, we need to be living these out ourselves. It certainly makes us consider the areas where we might be in danger of hypocrisy or the ways we need to improve. Otherwise, we know that it’s all cheap talk and meaningless to transform lives. How can God possibly use us if we aren’t applying his truth ourselves?

Just the week before we spoke at the Before I Do Seminar, we had some friction. Almost immediately, I recognized it as a spiritual attack and Edric did, too. But, we were busy and preoccupied with personal matters, so we let the issues linger longer than they should have. Anyway, it got to a point where we weren’t really communicating. We were intentionally dismissing one another because we were both irritated. But how could we remain this way? In just a few days we were going to be in front of a group of 80 people to tell them how amazing it is when you have God at the center of your marriage! So we both came together to identify the root issue – neither of us was spirit-filled. We were reacting to circumstances and to one another selfishly and with pride. After reconciling, we went out on a wonderful date the night before our talk and intimacy was restored. The next day, we stood up before an audience without pretense, not putting on a façade of “we have it all together”, but acknowledging that it is truly the Lord who has made the difference in our relationship.

Unfortunately, I don’t think many marriages are around long enough these days to look back in hindsight at the journey God meant for them to take as a team. They often miss out on the adventure even before it starts. I really felt like the best part of my marriage to Edric began a couple of years after we really figured out what God wanted us to do for him. Before then, it was too much about what I wanted and what Edric wanted, and blah, blah, blah. It wasn’t until we recognized that God ordained our partnership for a greater reason beyond the island that is our marriage that there began to be real depth to our relationship — that we didn’t just exist for ourselves and our own dreams.

Couples really ought to discover what their shared burdens are. Or better yet, singles should marry someone who has the same convictions and passion for ministry. There are so many needs out there — orphans, widows, the poor, marriage and family counseling, access to better education, housing, and opportunities for the underprivileged, etc. How can we use our talents and resources to be a blessing, to serve others? To glorify God?

I really believe the greatest intimacy any couple can share goes beyond the mental, physical and emotional aspect of their relationship. Personally speaking, the spiritual alignment of Edric’s heart with mine and with the Lord’s has been the most definitive aspect of who we are as husband and wife, and I would even say…the most beautiful.

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For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45 NASB)

Purple Glasses

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Having a daughter has been such a delight. Binary opposite to her brothers, Tiana, is incredibly feminine and demure. It’s a wonder too since she is growing up surrounded by a lot of testosterone. But lately, I’ve noticed that she is becoming dangerously kikay. She likes clothes and shoes…sometimes a little too much. Where she gets this, I don’t know. When I was a little girl, I ran around in underwear, shirtless. Even to this day, my wardrobe choices are simple. No, I don’t run around in underwear! What I mean is that I’m not a big shopper. I’m a big GROCERY shopper. That’s where most of the money goes. On occasion, I will buy Tiana clothes. I admit that I like seeing her reaction when she gets something new.

“You got this for me, mommy? I really like it! Can I wear it now? Thank you, mommy!” She will say. Of course, I love having another girl in the house who can share this delight.

My boys were NEVER fashion conscious. They could care less about what they wear. Plaids + stripes equals fashion to them. Worn-out cotton shirts and soft shorts are their number one picks for what to wear every day.

With Tiana, it’s so different. She likes to pick out her outfits. She likes to come with me to the store. She calls it “girl’s time.” A few weeks ago, she squealed when I told her we were going shopping and she said, “I’m sooo excited! Can we buy shoes and clothes?” I have to admit that I was suckered by her cuteness. So I said, “Okay!” At the store, she picked out shirts with kittens on them. And she wanted everything in purple or pink. Fortunately, she forgot about the shoes.

For the first time, however, I became concerned when I was shopping for a gift and Tiana was with me. As we walked past a sunglasses boutique, she blurted out, “Mom, I need glasses! I REALLY need purple glasses…for the sun.” She was holding on to my hand in a beggarly sort of way and I looked down at her two-year old self and thought, Whose spawn are you?! When did you receive the materialism bug? You NEED purple sunglasses? You already have purple sunglasses! Did I do this? Oh dear…

In the car, I asked her, “Why do you need purple glasses?”

“Because I need them.”

“What will you do with them?”

“Put them on my eyes.”

“But why do you need them?”

“Because I WANT them…I like them.”

Edric and I laughed as we listened to her. She wasn’t making any sense. Later on during the car ride, she saw a photo of me in Europe wearing a fuzzy sweater and she commented, “I need a sweater like that, mom.”

While all of this is fun for me…a welcome change after having three boys whose emotional meter remains at zero when fashion is a topic of conversation, I’ve got to be careful about encouraging the growing desire she has for clothes and shoes.

Edric had a good point when he said to me one day, “Don’t buy her things unless she really needs them.” Awww…shucks.

Edan, who is very observant, made the remark, “Mom, I think you have to get us more clothes. Tiana has a lot more clothes than we do.” It’s true. Hee hee. My boys are running around in faded raiment while Tiana has a multitude of shiny new garb to choose from in her closet.

So where is the balance? I want to raise a feminine daughter and I think that part of that is teaching her how to put outfits together and dressing up well. But that’s one very small dimension of true femininity. It’s okay to buy clothes and shoes but I shouldn’t over-emphasize her physical appearance. It’s okay to complement the way she looks but I should complement her character more. It’s okay to go shopping for her and with her but I need to refrain from being excessive to protect her from materialism. After all, she is just 2 years old. If she is this interested in buying things at this age, that inclination will be multiplied when she is older.

Did she get new purple glasses? Definitely not. She can still use the pair she already has.
I have to remember that true femininity begins with inner beauty – being gentle and quiet in spirit; cultivating character traits like kindness, thoughtfulness, thankfulness, helpfulness, servant-hood, and the desire to nurture and care for others; developing a love for the Lord and for others…

I’m thankful for a mom who taught me how to walk, stand, sit and dress like a lady but who made character instruction her greater preoccupation. I need to do the same for Tiana and daughter number 2, coming in August!

Your adornment must not be merely external-braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. (1 Peter 3:3, 4 NASB)

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Paper Dolls

I remember playing with paper dolls alot when I was a girl. And since I am always on the lookout for activities to keep Tiana preoccupied while her brothers are busy working, these paper doll finds were great! For just p 69.75 Lampara Publishing House has published paper doll books that are reasonable and really good quality. Reminds me of being a little girl again…

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Discover Your Beauty

I believe all women are beautiful. God has gifted each one of us with unique personalities, abilities, and physical attributes.

Years ago, I found out my color palette was autumn and spring — earthy and warm. I have always been drawn to orange, brown, beige, and deep hues that remind me of the sun setting or leaves falling. These are the colors that best highlight my skin color and features, and make me feel energized when I am wearing them. On the other spectrum are winter and summer colors — bold and bright. I look sickly and tired when I wear these. But on other women, wow, these colors make sense.

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It’s helpful to know your color palette, especially when you go shopping for clothes and makeup. And you need to know your body type when you want to look like you haven’t been stuffed into an outfit that evokes visions of a sausage. I don’t think we realize how big a difference the right colors make and learning to accentuate the positive in our figures (modestly, of course) makes us look more youthful, alive, put together, and yes, beautiful! But what is outer beauty without inner beauty? Make up and clothing on a gorgeous woman still won’t hide the ugly inside. So both matter!

If you are free on April 20, 9am to 12pm discover how to cultivate inner beauty and enhance your outer beauty at 3rd floor, A Venue, in Makati. And if you care about your women friends or loved ones, bring them along. For P100/person you get a color palette kit. Slots are limited. Hope to see you there!

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Dealing with the Resistance

Given the “break” we have had from homeschooling because of no househelp, I have been trying to get my kids back into the habit of studying. Since they have gotten used to having the liberty to dictate their personal schedules instead of sitting down in the mornings for their usual studies, I find myself having to deal with complaining and negativity. And these are attitudes that I absolutely do not allow my children to get away with.

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Today was one of those days when my second son, Edan, put up a resistance. He slumped over his science notebook and started writing in chicken scratch. This is very uncharacteristic of him. As a very diligent child, he will more often than not assess his goals for the day, tackle them one by one, asking for help when needed but finishing it all by noon. Instead, he was holding the pencil begrudgingly, like he was being tortured, and his demeanor was a picture of negativity.

Recognizing that his heart wasn’t right, I asked him to step out of the room and pray about his attitude. When he was ready, he could come back in and resume his work. I wasn’t about to struggle through the morning with him. When he left, I focused on Elijah, Titus and Tiana, trusting that at some point, he would “crack.”

Well, he took longer than expected. In fact, my eldest son, Elijah, who has gone through the same process of taking time away to think through his attitude, commented, “What’s wrong with him? He is being defiant.” Several times, he checked the door out of concern to see if Edan was coming back. I responded with, “Don’t worry about him. Just focus on what you need to get done. God will speak to him.”

In thirty minutes, Edan snuck back in but not to do work. He sprawled himself out on the sofa like I was not serious about what I had said. “I am sorry but you can only come in here if you are going to do your work. If you are going to lounge around like that, you have to go back into the other room.” He walked out and started to cry – a wailing sort of cry that had anger mixed into it.

I know Edan. He tends to be quiet but he can be just as strong-willed and bullheaded as his other siblings. They all need training and discipline to learn submission to authority, respect, and other important character traits that are necessary for life success so I have to be lovingly tough when necessary to help them grow in these areas.

I knew this was a resistance. He was putting up a “fight.” At any point he could have said sorry and gone right back to what he had to do. But he was trying to escape responsibility.

After a while, he tried to make his constructive exile a little more comfortable, so he picked up a book to read. He also called out, “I am hungry.” My, my.

I went into the room he was in and spoke with him. “I want you to know that you will be in here all day if necessary until you realize that you have to fulfill your responsibilities. That means that you don’t get to eat, read, play, or do anything until you change your attitude.”

He looked at me and started to wail again. Of course he was upset. But it was his choice to draw out his “suffering.” I don’t always have to use spanking as a form of discipline when withdrawal of privileges or natural logical consequences will work just fine. In this case, Edan had to realize that he was free to choose but not free to escape the consequences of his choices. So I let him cry in the room and process his attitude. In the meantime, I went back to teaching my three other kids.

Well, what do you know, in fifteen minutes Edan opened the door and approached me. “I am sorry, ” he said with all sincerity. He gave me a big hug and I embraced him tightly.

“I forgive you. Mommy loves you so much.”

I held him for a while longer and asked if he prayed about his attitude. “I also said sorry to God,” was his reply. He was smiling, happy, and a transformed person. He finished what he had to without a complaining spirit.

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Personally, I have experienced how much more effective it is to let my kids acknowledge their wrong and make a personal choice to repent and correct their emotions rather than force them to do their homeschool work when their hearts aren’t ready.

Learning is a privileged experience for those who are eager and willing to be taught. And I want my kids to realize this. My job is not to force them to learn or work hard. I may encourage and motivate them, but my greater job is to cultivate in them a heart that is teachable and responsive to instruction, a heart that desires to please God. And this is a supernatural task. I can’t do it on my own power. By inviting the Holy Spirit to speak to them when they put up a resistance, I am acknowledging my own limitations and dependence on him to work in their hearts. If I were to push them to learn I can imagine that it would only make me angry in a counterproductive way (to say the least).

The more kids I have and the more of them I have to homeschool, the more I realize that only the Lord can convict them of sin and only he can bring about lasting change in them. My part is to remain committed to help them grow spiritually — more in love with God and more like Christ — and to be Christ-like myself (which is often the harder challenge!).

Proverbs 13:1 A wise son accepts his father’s discipline, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.

Proverbs 19:18 Discipline your son while there is hope, And do not desire his death.

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Still Amazed

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Prior to the ultra sound for congenital anomaly screening (CAS), which is given between 5 and 6 months for pregnant women, I had a nervous excitement. For the first 22 weeks of my pregnancy I had not looked for baby names, shopped for baby stuff, or imagined what it would be like to have a girl or boy. With previous pregnancies, I could sort of tell what I was having, especially with Tiana. Unlike my boys, I got hot flashes and my hormones seemed a little more wacko than usual. Even Edric got hot flashes and that is just weird but I’d like to think it is love. He shares a whole list of pregnancy symptoms with me each time I am expecting.

With three boys and a daughter, Edric and I both thought that it would be great if we could have one more girl so Tiana could have a sister. Every day since she realized that there was a baby growing in mommy’s tummy, Tiana would pray for a baby girl. “Lord, please help mommy’s baby to be a girl. I pray for my baby girl.” In fact, on one occasion when Titus was assigned to lead prayer time, she got upset when he wasn’t praying for the baby. “Pray for my baby girl! You are not praying for my girl!” she said. She still says “my girl.”

But what did God want? I had to believe that he had it all figured out for all of us. My prayer was, “Lord, you know the desire of my heart. I would really like to have a girl, but give me the grace to accept whatever you decide for our family.”

April 8 was a big day. It was find-out-the-gender-day. Edric and I planned to bring all the kids so it could be a learning session on human anatomy for our homeschooling, and we wanted to find out if it was a boy or girl together.

Unfortunately, when we got to the clinic, the doctor who was supposed to do the ultra sound didn’t come in that day. So, I was disappointed to discover that it wasn’t going to happen. But Edric suggested I ask my OB-Gynecologist for another place to get the ultra sound done and she referred us to In My Womb.

Edric and the kids had a viewing area where they could watch everything from a flat screen. They were practically jumping up and down as they saw the different body parts of the baby. It was especially enlightening for Titus and Tiana who were seeing something like that for the first time. (As a homeschooling family, we like to make the most of every learning opportunity! So Edric and I were teaching the kids while the doctor identified and measured the anatomy and organs of the fetus.)

Edric explained to the kids that God would give us what was best. Whether the baby was a boy or girl, it would be God’s will so he encouraged them to be thankful for His good plan. By the end of our 45-minute session, however, the big news came and it was exactly what we had all hoped for. We celebrated when the doctor announced that she was a girl. 100% sure! Our four children cheered and my first thought was, Lord, you are so good. Who am I that you should consider my desires with such thoughtfulness?

Last night, Edric and I took a walk together. We wanted to spend some time just marveling at how amazing God is. As we prayed and thanked him again for answering our heart’s desire, we thought of how faithful he has been to us, even if we don’t deserve it. He has given each of our children at the right time and met our growing needs without fail. Three babies ago, we wanted to have a girl but God gave us a third son. And he turned out to be exactly what our family needed and wanted after all.

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My third son, Titus, who is turning 5 in a few weeks! I praise God for him.

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It’s always a win-win with the Lord. If he had chosen to give us a boy again this time around, I would have been disappointed but I know he would have had his reasons. And that’s the great thing about a loving God. You can absolutely trust his reasons even if you don’t always understand them.

Why? Because he is a deeply personal God. He knows our unspoken yearnings and he delights to bless those who follow him.

This is a definite high for our family right now. And I know that life isn’t without its challenges and we can’t expect to be exempt from suffering just because we follow God. I can say this because I went through something horrifying when I was younger even if I was a follower of Jesus. Whether the season be a time of plenty or a time of hardship, I think the one thing we can always believe about God is that he loves us and has a wonderful plan for our lives…one that exceeds even our best expectations. Our part is to stay faithful to Him – to follow, love, worship and obey Him with all that we are and with all that we’ve got…through life’s highs and lows.

In my quiet time this morning, I read this passage: “But you shall serve the Lord your God, and He will bless your bread and your water; and I will remove sickness from your midst. There shall be no one miscarrying or barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days…” (Exodus 23:25-26)

When the ultra sound results confirmed a baby girl, I was reminded that God is always amazing! He is a God who blesses.

Phillips, Craig, and Dean have a song that captures what I feel right now. It’s called “Your Grace Still Amazes Me.”

My faithful Father, enduring Friend 

Your tender mercy’s like a river with no end 

It overwhelms me, covers my sin 

Each time I come into Your presence 

I stand in wonder once again

CHORUS: 

Your grace still amazes me 

Your love is still a mystery 

Each day I fall on my knees 

Your grace still amazes me 

‘Cause Your grace still amazes me

Oh, patient Saviour
You make me whole 

You are the Author and the Healer of my soul 

What can I give You, Lord, what can I say 

I know there’s no way to repay You 

Only to offer You my praise

It’s deeper, it’s wider 

It’s stronger, it’s higher 

It’s deeper it’s wider 

It’s stronger, it’s higher

than anything my eyes can see…

Future Home

Nearly four months ago we started building our home. I will probably give birth before we are able to move in but that’s alright. We can squeeze in one more baby in our condo for a few more months until our house is finished. It’s been such a blessing to witness God’s faithfulness on this project. Today, Edric and I went to visit the site to take some pictures. I don’t know if it is genetically wired into me to like construction materials since my dad is a real estate developer but I found so many interesting things to photograph!
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