Archives for December 2013

What To Do About Santa

Santa Claus image taken from skytop.com

Santa Claus image taken from skytop.com

I should’ve published this earlier but just got around to it this evening…

In our home we don’t make Santa a part of our Christmas celebrations. Our kids don’t believe in Santa. Some people will shoot me for saying this. I know that Santa Claus is a huge part of Christmas for a majority of families. Personally, we don’t want our kids to buy into a fallacy and get really disappointed in the future when they realise that he doesn’t exist.

We aren’t anti-Santa like he is some sort of Satanic figure. (Same letters in Santa also spell Satan?!) If families want to make Santa Claus a part of their Christmas tradition, that’s their call. He’s a cute, cuddly man in a red suit who loves children.

But if you would like to know why we don’t encourage our kids to believe in him, then read on…

1. He isn’t real. I already said that right? We also don’t celebrate Easter by glorifying the Easter Bunny.

2. Since he isn’t real, it’s lying to say he is.

3. How long will you have to defend Santa if he isn’t real?

4. We treat Santa like we would any other character that is just “pretend.” The kids know that he is a part of Christmas celebrations around the world (not ours) but they think of him like they would ginger bread houses, elves, and flying reindeers. It’s all pretend. Our kids are pretty logical, too. How can one man be in a billion places at one time unless he has divine powers?

I wrote this short article as a response to a question that a reader asked me about Santa. Personally, I believe there are some things worth dying for and there are other things that are subject to debate. Whether it is wrong or right to include Santa Claus in Christmas traditions is something I will leave for the theologists out there to determine. After all, we could question other things…like what about Christmas trees? What about gift giving? We aren’t extremists.

So our conclusion…Santa Claus is a nice guy but in our home, it is our personal conviction that raising our children to believe in him and his magical powers would mean we would have to deceive our kids. More importantly, we don’t want Santa Claus to have center stage or to eclipse the central figure of Christmas in our home — Jesus Christ.

Educational App Reviews – MoMA Art Lab

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I’ve asked my sons to start reviewing educational apps that they have enjoyed using. This is partly because they wanted to get some new apps and I told them they have to earn the privilege to do so by reviewing apps. Of course, they made their opinions short. They are boys, after all.

I can vouch for the added value of these apps as a homeschooling mom. My kids are pretty discriminating about the apps they get because we give them guidelines for choosing good ones. They often have to show us what makes an app educational — how it will help them grow in a skill or ability that they can use in the present or future. So these apps also have our parental seal of approval.

Here is their first review…

MoMA Art Lab

Developer: MoMA, The Museum of Modern art .

About: MoMA art lab is an app that allows users to create various works of art like collages, drawings and many other artworks inspired by famous artists.

Educational Value: This app is great for kids who want to learn about how artists create modern works of art. They will also learn some basic principles and elements of art.

Key Features (From Developer):

• Create and save your own artwork

• Play with shapes, lines, and colors

• Nine activities inspired by works of art, including:

  • Create a mobile

  • Experiment with paint

  • Draw from instructions

  • Create a sound composition

  • Draw with scissors

  • Make a line design

  • Collaborate on a group drawing

  • Create a shape poem

  • Make a chance collage

• Creative prompts for extra inspiration

• Audio for pre-readers

• Learn about works of art at MoMA. Artists include Henri Matisse, Alexander Calder, Elizabeth Murray, Sol LeWitt, Jim Lambie, Brice Marden, and others.

• Share your artwork

Educational Value Rating:  4 Stars (★★★★☆)

Recommended Age: 4 years old and older

Why we like it: You have complete freedom to create whatever art you want.   

City Kids on Strawberry Fields


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Our kids are city-bred. Unfortunately this means that they aren’t used to getting muddy and dirty. But on my birthday we brought them to Trinidad Valley (just 20 minutes from Baguio City) to go strawberry picking.

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For just P300 pesos per kilo harvested, the kids could go out into the fields and pick strawberries. They were given boots and baskets. The boots were a great help, especially when they had to walk in the muddied pathways between rows of strawberries. Initially, they were squeamish and complaining about the dirt.  However, once they started finding strawberries and sticking them into their baskets, they kept going and going!

Strawberry-picking became an educational experience for our kids. We all saw the different ways strawberries were used, too – wine, taho, pastillas, jam, etc. I thought it was hilarious when the taho vendor was like, “M’am, take a photo for Instagram!”

The kids had so much fun being little farmers, we actually had to stop them at one point from over-picking. Of course, they were ravenously hungry by the end, too, which was great. There was no need to remind them to “eat their food” when we were back in Baguio City. It was gobble, gobble, gobble.

 

Twelve Things I Love About Christmas

Top 12 reasons why Christmas is my FAVORITE time of the year:

1. Food. It feels like I gain an extra five pounds every Christmas but the pounds are well worth the pleasure of the food I get to eat. This season I am a breastfeeding mom so at least I get to burn off some of it without having to exercise. Thank you Lord for breastfeeding!

Breakfast Christmas morning at my in-laws…Tapa, Ham, Bangus (my dream breakfast)

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2. Going up to Baguio. A couple of days before Christmas we stay at Baguio Country Club with my parents and siblings. We invade the place with all our children!

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The kids always look forward to being with their cousins and the cooler weather. It wasn’t too cold this year…unfortunately. But we still enjoyed a bunch of activities — strawberry picking, horseback riding, zip-lining, roller blading, and buffet-eating at the club.

Tree Top Adventure in John Hay…

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Zip-lining for the little ones…

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Strawberry picking in Trinidad Valley…DSC_0233

3. Celebrating my birthday. My birthday is so close to Christmas, but Edric always manages to make it a special day for me.

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This year, he got each of the children to bring me flowers and he asked all of them to write me notes, including our househelp. Those were especially meaningful to read. He also secretly deposited shopping money into my account. Yay!
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4. Shopping for gifts. I really enjoy buying gifts for friends and loved ones. With the help of Amazon, Bath & Body, Christian Book and my sister’s mad packing skills, I received a balikbayan box full of presents to wrap early December.

5. Wrapping gifts. Because I like paper so much, I have so much fun using wrapping paper, paper bags, ribbons and gift tags to package each present. It’s therapeutic. I found a great deal for Christmas gift bags at Uniwide. P150 a kilo! Also, S and R had a buy one take one for their paper. I like the width of the bigger paper you can buy there. Easier to wrap big presents.

6. Letting the kids shop for one another. We have this tradition of giving the kids shopping money to buy toys for one another and their cousins. It makes them think of others before themselves and they learn how to work with a budget. The little ones have to resist the urge to pick out things for themselves. Of course I go bananas trying to manage them in the toy store. We went to the Toy Kingdom in Podium because it was smaller, less crowded, and more “contained.” I wasn’t worried about the kids walking around by themselves.

7. Throwing a party for our househelp. My siblings and I plan a party for all of our househelp. We organize games and buy them prizes and let them have a big feast. It is our yearly appreciation party, to let them know how much we care about them. These men and women are partners in our ministry and parenting. We value their loyalty and service very much.

Edric’s mom and dad also invite people to come to their home — people who have worked for them in the past or people who are related to those who work for them at present. There were about 40 people who came to receive gifts and money on the 25th. The kids learned to be a blessing. They were assigned to give money to each person that passed in front of them. Afterwards one of my kids said, “I am so glad we did this!”

8. Get-togethers. I am blessed to have married into a wonderful family. Edric’s parents (mommy and papa to me) and his siblings are amazing. I couldn’t have asked for better in laws. They are a joy to be with and it’s very easy to love them. They are big on traditions like Christmas morning spent together, lunches with the Mendozas and dinners with the Espiritus. My parents and siblings are less particular about the 25th, so we see each other on the 26th.

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9. Celebrating with our Bible Study Group. We have an even bigger family that is made up of dear friends. We have shared in one another’s victories, defeats, struggles, afflictions, and joys. When we get together during the Christmas season it is a reminder that we are all recipients of God’s grace. These are the people who have journeyed alongside us in our Christian walk.

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10. Edric is on vacation-mode. This means he is totally chill and relaxed. He has lots of time to give to the kids and I and he is not stressed by deadlines or commitments. I lost his wallet the day we were supposed to leave for Baguio. I told him I didn’t have it but I accidentally put it into my bag! We looked for it for an hour. He didn’t get upset at all. Finally I saw it and sheepishly told him that it was with me the whole time. He just smiled. Whew.

11. Our Children’s Excitement. The countdown to Christmas begins early for our children. I see the twinkling in their eyes when they know it’s just a few days away and I share in their anticipation.

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It is such a thrill to watch them pull everything out of their stockings and then move on to their gifts and tear at the wrapping paper (even if I laboured over each gift’s presentation). They say things like, “Yay! This is awesome! This is my favourite! Thank you mom and dad!” Of course we remind them that they are to share all their toys and we have a policy…only one present is played with at a time so they learn restraint and self-control. Otherwise, they will not appreciate what they have received. This is how we curb their materialism and gift-gluttony. Edric also encourages them to go through their old toys to give some away. (We can’t do this yet because most of their toys are stored in a warehouse until we move to our new place).

12. God’s goodness to our family. I am so grateful to the Lord for his blessings. Everything that we have and everything that we are able to enjoy is from him. We were disappointed that we couldn’t be in our new house for Christmas. Our nomadic situation (spending a good number of weeks in my parents’ and then in Edric’s parent’s place) has been humbling. Even though both sides (Edric’s and mine) have enjoyed housing our army of a family, we want to be the grown ups we are and finally settle into our own home.

Soon after we gave birth we boxed up our condo in anticipation of being able to be in our place by December. But certain uncontrollable factors have extended the end date of the finishing stage. So we have been reminded to be grateful as a family. Our true source of happiness is beyond the material things. It is the presence of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives. He is the center of our family, the center of our Christmas. He is home to us.

DSC_0610-1Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year to You All! Thank you for being a part of my life as a reader. You inspire me to keep on writing. I praise God for all of you!

Eggshells

When I gave birth four months ago, I was emotionally drained and physically tired. I wasn’t very pleasant to be around. Edric and the kids missed my usually jolly self. But I thought, hey, I just gave birth, I don’t want added stress in my life from anyone. So if people around me didn’t treat me with care or thoughtfulness, I resented it. And they felt it.

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Photo source: http://lovehurts.50webs.com

I really don’t want to be an eggshell kind of wife, mother or friend. But the reality is when I’m not spirit-filled I can be moody and temperamental. I can have this attitude of entitlement especially towards Edric and the kids. Cater to me, consider my feelings, don’t do anything to upset me…etc. It’s selfish.

And everytime I start to think of my rights, what is due me, I get into relational trouble. I become a life-sucker instead of a life-giver.

God designed women to be lifegivers of the home. When we are positive and joyful, we bring light into the lives of those around us. But when we are negative, irritable, contentious, and easily angered, home becomes a hostile and toxic environment.

A few days ago, my parents got their airconditioners cleaned by a technician. Aftewards, the guy commented to their househelp that my parents seemed to be such kind bosses. Apparently, he had cleaned other so-called Christian’s homes and he noticed that the women of these homes (the wives) yelled at their househelp and cursed at them, too.

What?!

My first thought was, as Christians, we do a shameful amount of damage to the name of Jesus Christ. How can we attract people to Jesus if we live with this kind of hypocrisy, especially in our homes?

The Bible tells us, we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses. Whenever I remember this passage I am convicted to be careful about my actions and behavior, especially my patience towards the people in my home. Home isn’t a place where I have the liberty to act selfishly, where others have to walk on eggshells around me. In fact it should be the place where I am most consistent – where what I believe about Christ and Christ-likeness are congruent. The atmosphere I cultivate with my presence should be fun, light, and happy.

Some years ago, I hired a lady to work for me that was a little goobelly-goops in the head. That word is my term to describe someone who is unable to apply logical reasoning during decision making.

For example, I created a menu for our home. I handed her the menu for the week and explicitly told her to follow it. I did my groceries based on the meals I had indicated there so it was imperative she stuck to the menu. However, I came home to find that she had cooked something totally different. When I asked her why, she said, “Because I wanted to.”

“Didn’t I tell you to follow the menu?” And she just kind of looked at me blankly. It was not a look of defiance, either. It was more like, Uh…, to which my thought was, Grr…

Another time I asked her to take my three year old, Elijah, to the park. (This was obviously years ago!). She had been to this park a number of occasions, walking from my parent’s place to get there. It was about a 10-minute walk. When we got to the park, I asked her, “Are you sure you know how to get back home?” She said, “yes, mam.”

“Are you sure?” I asked again because she didn’t seem that sure. Then she added, “Yes.” But she continued, “Will I leave Elijah here?”

Huh?! Leave a four year old at a park?!

I was flabbergasted! “Of course not! You have to stay with him,” was my response.

When I got back from my errand, they were safe and sound at my mom and dad’s. Miracle. I asked her, “Did you have a hard time finding your way home?”

“No, I just asked Elijah. He said turn here, turn there…”

This cracked me up. I could picture my little Elijah leading the way for her. Thank God he was very articulate at that age!

I have other crazy stories about her. During a party, she put shredded carrots in place of cheese for the taco salad! Instead of asking me if we had more cheese, her logic was, they seemed to be the same color. Eh?

She was also in love with one of the guards in our condo. I kept on telling her it wasn’t okay because he was married but she would semi-stalk him. It was the talk of the condo among the househelp and guards, too.

One of the last straws was when she had a hair-pulling cat fight with a neighbor’s househelp and we had to mediate the issue between two households. Edric and I were very embarrassed.

She wasn’t with us too long. I tried to help her grow as a person and I could’ve put in more effort into doing so but I was a mom of two at that point and needed someone more dependable. When there was an opportunity for her to visit her family in the province, I didn’t invite her to come back to work for us. She is still a friend of the family and came to see the kids at least once since she left to work abroad. Yes, she found work as a caregiver abroad – better opportunity and pay, so good for her!

By God’s grace, as maddening as her incidences were when she worked for us, I never yelled at her. I cried in my room and expressed to Edric how exasperated I was several times but it was really the Holy Spirit who kept me from totally losing it verbally in front of her. She knew that Edric and I were followers of Jesus and so did our other househelp. I didn’t want to misrepresent his name by causing either of them to stumble. Instead, we would sit down with them and give them objective evaluations on what they were doing well and what they had to improve on.

With my kids, however, it is another story. I find myself more prone to irritation when they don’t follow instructions or when they make mistakes. So I have to be extra careful and remember that my responses and attitudes can wound them and destroy the work of the Lord in their lives.

Two days ago, I asked Elijah to come shopping with me. He doesn’t necessarily like the shopping, but he was eager to be with me. He’s a time guy. He did great until the last part where he started to get bored and restless. When I was looking for clothes for Catalina, he spilled chocolate milk on items that I wasn’t intending to buy. Ack. The vendor was visible upset, and I was annoyed, too. I ended up having to purchase a pair of neon pants that weren’t that cute.

Elijah felt badly and apologized several times, “I’m sorry, mom.” “Yup, so am I.” I meant to say it with a measure of gravity. I shouldn’t have but I did. And I noticed that Elijah’s countenance fell further. The poor guy had endured 3 hours of shopping by this point so I needed to give him some credit!

It really wasn’t that big a deal. There was no malicious intent on his part when the milk spilled. I didn’t want him to carry unnecessary guilt so I had to assure him, “It’s okay, it was just an accident,” and I put my arm around him. He perked up right away and we moved on.

Our children are very sensitive to Edric and I. They know when we are tired, upset, annoyed, angry, or unhappy. Some of these feelings are justified but not when we act on them in a self-centered and unloving way, especially towards one another or our kids. I don’t ever want my children to feel tense and on edge around us, like they have to watch whatever they say or do because we are emotionally volatile. I want them to have the freedom to enjoy being with us.

Personally, I feel that a good indication of whether our children feel at ease in our presence is to observe them when we move about the home or sit at the dinner table. Do our children like to linger in our company? Do they open up and engage in conversation? Do they laugh and smile often? If we can answer yes, then praise God! If not, then perhaps we need to consider what sort of atmosphere characterizes our home and how it affects the people in it, especially our spouse and children. Do our loved ones feel like they have to walk on eggshells around us or are they energized and encouraged when they are with us?

The Return of the Ganglion

I have this ganglion cyst right under the skin near my knee. Due to cosmetic reasons, I saw a doctor twice in the last month to get it removed. My skin has been sliced open on two occasions just to drain it and cut it up so it will dissolve into my body. Well, it keeps filling up with fluid again. It’s totally annoying. The last time, the cut was deep and long enough to need stitches so I am definitely going to have a scar and unfortunately, for nothing!

Well, there was one satisfying element about getting my skin sliced. I got to watch the procedure and take a video of it for my kids because we are doing Human Anatomy for science. I showed it to them and they were like “Ew! It looks like a jelly!” Well, I hate that jelly thing. I want it out, out of my body. I’ve dreamt about cutting it out myself and seeing what it looks like as a whole piece. I know, I sound like a crazy person! It just keeps coming back so I will probably see an orthopedic surgeon to get his opinion if it really gets bigger.

Whenever I mention this cyst to Edric, he seems totally disinterested. He thinks I’m fixating on it too much.

“Hey babe, my cyst came back. Look, look. Do you want to feel it?”

“No, I don’t want to feel it!”

He was concerned when the surgical procedures were being done and he called to check on me. But since they were both fails, he thinks I should just let the darn thing be. Sigh.

As I was thinking about this cyst problem, trying to get rid of it in an obsessive sort of way has revealed how controlling I can be. I can’t relax until I get what I want done to this cyst. And because it has not happened it troubles me everyday!

I didn’t listen to the advice of my orthopedic surgeon friend and another dermatologist friend who said I should leave the cyst alone. They said it would scar. But I was stubborn and tried to have it removed anyway. So now I have it still and an unsightly line that marks the spot where it is.

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This ganglion has been a good character lesson for me. God uses these life experiences to teach me something worth writing about. So here it is…the return of the ganglion, a reflection on the unchangeables in our lives.

We all have things that trouble us, things that we want to change, get rid of, or get away from. It may not be something shallow like my ganglion. It could be a physical attribute that is a source of insecurity…a past experience that continues to affect our identity and self-worth…a difficult circumstance that seems to rob us of our joy and peace…an actual person whose presence in our lives causes us pain…or someone who is just plain annoying!

Whatever it is, Christ exemplified the remedy in the Garden of Gethsemane when he said, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.” (Mark 14:36 NASB)

Jesus demonstrated what it means to trust in God’s wisdom. He acceded to God’s purpose — that salvation of mankind made possible through his sacrifice. He made a choice to submit to the will of his Father.

There will never be a sacrifice as important as the one Christ made. But, we are all elected to bear certain undesirables that we would rather not. What comforts me is that God’s plans factor in the grand scheme of eternity. Our finite understanding does not. We see but a glimpse when we string together the past, present, and future. And unless we have the grace to look beyond the veil of this material world, we may mistakenly believe that we live for it — it’s pleasures, it’s demands, it’s trophies, it’s philosophies, it’s values and standards. And we may also believe that we are crippled, shackled and defined by the hardships that are found in it. How pitiful indeed if this is the measure of our glory and end. But it isn’t!

“For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:15-17 NASB)

We are destined for a higher joy made full in the presence of our Creator and King. And when we can say, Lord your will be done (for the big and small troubles we would otherwise wish away), we are living with a recognition that this earthly existence is not the best of what is and will be. In light of this, the temporal and passing things that cause us so much stress do not seem to be worthy of the attention and energy we give to them. If God has willed these unchangeables in our lives, like ganglions that will not go away, let us be thankful. For the time being, they are permitted to be but our assurance is that God’s will is EVER in our favor. It is not a gamble to hope in Him or to look forward to the way he will use these things for our eternal good.

After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. (1 Peter 5:10 NASB)

Mommy Matters Makes Magic Mom-wear

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When Mommy Matters asked me to be a brand ambassador for their breastfeeding clothes, I was like, yay, what a privilege! But at the same time, I was like, ack! I just gave birth! I am not feeling too hot about my body right now. Muffin top is not exactly confidence-building. But then I tried on the clothes that Janice and Candice sent me and I was like, hey! These are so comfy and they hide everything you don’t want people to see!

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Mommy Matters clothing is so cleverly designed with strategically placed holes and cuts so you can breastfeed anywhere, anytime. It’s like magic mom-wear. Now you see me, now you don’t.

For those of us moms who know what it is like to have a screaming baby that needs to be fed RIGHT NOW, you absolutely need to be able to give them easy and quick access to your breasts.

My daughter, Catalina, will throw a fit if she isn’t able to get her milk-fix when she wants it. In fact, if I take too long she will continue to cry even after she is able to breastfeed just because she wants to express how upset she is that her “food” didn’t arrive on time!

So it makes sense to wear clothing that understands the needs of a breastfeeding mother. And this is where I give credit to Mommy Matters for being so thoughtful about their designs. Babies will also feel cozy next to the soft fabric (they mostly use knits) when they are being cuddled.

The shoot ended up being a lot of fun, thanks to awesomely petite and talented photographer, Sheila Juan Catilo.

I am so happy Mommy Matters let me pick out several items to keep, too. Here is one I wore the other day…super comfy!

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Tooth-ful Lesson

I want to commend my son, Edan, for allowing me, his non-dentist mother, to pull out his two front teeth. He triumphed in the area of bravery yesterday. There was a lot of back and forth wrestling, emotionally speaking, but when he finally said, “Ok,” I knew he wholeheartedly committed himself into my care. Whew.

Praise God my method worked! I popped one out with blitzkrieg force and the other took a little more tactical ingenuity. I used dental floss to lasso that sucker and yanked it out unsuccessfully at first. Oops. But my dear son still let me have a go at it. Finally it came out and he let out a nervous and delighted laugh.

“Yay! You’re the best dentist, mom!”

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What a sweetie! I know Edan was terrified. I could see it in his eyes. But he told me after the ordeal he knew I could do it. If a corruptible, flawed, imperfect person like me can earn the trust of a 7 year old boy to inflict a measure of pain to get his teeth out, then why is it so hard to give our lives to an almighty, all-knowing, all-loving God?

Well, I think the answer is simple. We do not trust God because we do not know him intimately. To some he is a mere concept, or a religious figure head, distant and impersonal, or he does not exist. And until we encounter him personally, we won’t be willing to give our lives to him.

Edan knew it would hurt when I pulled out his teeth but he had faith in me because he knows me. He knows I love him. He knows I want what is best for him. Plus, I had pulled his tooth out before.

His trust was a beautiful reminder of the kind of child-like faith we should have in God. The difference is (unlike my bogus dentist self) God is perfect. God makes no false claims. He is who he says he is. He does what he says he will. What a comfort!

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? (Romans 8:31, 32 NASB)

When I was a young girl I had a German shepherd who was very unoriginally named Princess. Whether she was purebred is highly debatable, too. But I loved her and played with her everyday. One day she went missing. We didn’t know what happened to her. And I was in tears. I was devastated.

My dad encouraged me to pray and ask God to help us find her. Up until this point I had never really had an experience that tore me up emotionally. So I begged God that she would be found.

The next morning, in faith, we decided to go looking for her. We walked up and down the winding hills of Valley Golf in Antipolo to do so.

I kept calling out her name, “Princess, Princess!”

Amazingly, during our trek up one of the steep hills I heard a yelping sound. I followed it with my parents. The yelping came from a manhole. Could this be her?! My heart was racing as I ran to the edge of the hole. And there, jumping up and down was Princess, alive and well! She must have fallen inside during one of her adventures and gotten trapped. We rescued her and brought her home.

It was an incredible faith-affirming moment for me. It left an indelible imprint on my understanding of who God is. In that instant he became personal. In that instant I knew he cared about the desires of my heart.

Since that tender age I have prayed for many things and God hasn’t always answered them with a yes. But I have believed through each trial and difficult circumstance that his character remains the same. He loves me. He is faithful. He is good. I can give my life completely to him. My future is secure no matter what happens.

I want to leave you with the best promise that God has given all of us — the promise of eternal life through Jesus Christ.

And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. (1 John 5:11-13 NASB)

Do you have a hard time trusting God? Pray for an encounter with the immeasurable height, depth and breath of his love. This is a prayer God delights to answer because he wants to have a personal relationship with you!

It’s Not About The Money

Money issues rank pretty high in the list of conflicts between a husband and wife. Edric and I have our share of money issues. They aren’t frequent but they do happen from time to time.

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Just yesterday, we had a stressful conversation over something sooo insignificant. But in marriage it’s sometimes the small things that trigger a deluge of toxic discussions, especially when you are both in combat mode.

We were settling money matters with one another. Edric said he transferred a certain sum of money to my account but based on records, I was absolutely sure he didn’t. (We share everything but I have a separate account that he puts funds into to help me budget monthly expenses for the household.) I mentioned to him again that what he had given me for the month was short. But he didn’t think so. To verify he checked his online transactions and sure enough, there was no transfer made on the day that he claimed he made one. There was a smaller amount but it was for a charity donation that I had advanced.

Instead of saying, Ok, I will send the funds now, Edric said that it was my fault for not collecting from him and reminding him back in November.

Some minutes later, he did send it but he seemed annoyed. He didn’t like having to deal with the backlog because he had “closed his books” on last month’s expenses. So he was irritated with me. And I retaliated by saying that this was his system so if it was flawed, it couldn’t possibly be my fault. He was in charge of our expenses. Furthermore, I explained to him that I had told him that he had not transferred the amount at the end of the month. But since he didn’t believe me at the time and we were both busy, we didn’t have the chance to verify transactions. It wasn’t until yesterday when the topic came up that I mentioned it again.

Our dialogue continued into the car when we were on our way to purchase water heaters for our new house. How fitting! The atmosphere was heating up!

He commented that the source of his irritation was my disorganization. As an example, he cited that after his massage the night before, he got money from my wallet to pay the therapist. And he said seeing the contents of my wallet was EMBLEMATIC of my lack of organization. It was like an explosion. Of course this upset me. A wallet as emblematic of organization?!

I told him the fact that he had to get money from my wallet meant that he had not prepared money for the therapist before hand. So who was the disorganized one?

Like I said…the deluge…

And I went on to say if you call me disorganized then it needs to be in context. I don’t need to have a regimented schedule like you do because I am at home with the kids. So evaluate me based on the condition of our children. Plus, I just gave birth, so am I not allowed some slack, a little bit of understanding for not having my whole life in order like yours?

He said that it wasn’t about not understanding. It was about explaining the source of his frustration over the incident with the money.

How a discussion on money traveled to this point is really one of those miracles that defines marriage.

Well I was missing the point. Do I have to improve on my organization? Admittedly…yes. Okay. Yes. Yes. I CAN be like an explosion. My wallet has a bunch of receipts in it that I need to throw away. My computer files need to be catalogued and put into better folders. My homeschooling schedule has been erratic because of breastfeeding. And I haven’t been able to prioritize everything that Edric has asked me to. So the more Christ-like response would have been to say, “I do have to improve.”

Eventually I did say this but only after Edric apologized to me for reacting about the money transfer. Sigh.

When I thought back on my resistance to accept his correction, the Lord convicted me that it was my pride. I cannot allow myself to become defensive when Edric points out an area of my life that I need to work on. Even if I don’t like the style of delivery or the context, if he says something that is valid, I need to listen better and acknowledge it. Otherwise, how will I grow? How will I mature spiritually and become more Christ-like unless I am sensitive to the way God uses him. He is the person who knows me the most, who sees my life with microscopic lenses.

Furthermore, I have to realize that Edric is my “boss”. While I would prefer that he is always sweet and tender towards me, if I reject the occasions when he is stern or dislikes my attitude, behavior, or perspective, then I do myself a spiritual disfavor. I forfeit God’s blessing when I am not humble enough to listen. Edric is not my enemy even if it can feel that way when are in a conflict. He is God’s mouthpiece of correction and instruction.

My enemy is pride! And the best way to overcome it is to say, “Thank you Lord for my husband. For using him to disciple me towards Christ-likeness.” And to Edric, I need to be more willing to say, “Thank you for helping me to improve and grow as a person.” I told him that and I meant it. Hee hee.

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man (person) is he (one) who listens to counsel. Proverbs 12:15

Christmas Party Activity for Kids

Here’s a fun activity you can do with your kids this Christmas: Make “gingerbread” houses out of graham crackers and decorate them with candy. I used to do this as a kid.

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Last night, during a gathering Edric and I had with our bible study group, the kids made their candy houses. My friend, Marilen, made the prototype above for the kids to copy. They had a blast putting their creativity to good use.

The key to making a house that stands is the royal icing. Mix 2 egg yokes with a teaspoon of lemon juice. Add powdered sugar in batches to test consistency while mixing. If the icing has peanut butter stickiness it’s ready to be used as the “glue” for the graham crackers and candies.

Check out wiki how for detailed instructions. This site was super helpful!

The recipe for the icing is so easy I had the kids make it. They got a good biceps workout because the hand mixer wasn’t working. But, a kitchen whisk worked just fine. Then they put the icing into a thick freezer ziploc bag and snipped off a tiny bit off one corner.

Candies and sweets were laid out for the kids to use as their decorations and they got right to it.
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The graham cracker houses are easier to decorate when they sit for a little bit after connecting all the sides and the roof. Otherwise, it can get frustrating for the kids when it accidentally topples over while they are sticking on the candies.

Their creations (safe to eat just mind the sugar content)…

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Teaching Children to Make Wise Choices

My kids like to use the IPads and computers for games. For about 4 months they were banned from gadgets so we could finish our homeschooling year. But after I gave birth, online educational programs and apps were a big help to keep the kids productive while I was busy with Catalina.

We stuck to certain parameters.

1. Is the game or app educational?
2. Will it help to develop an important skill?
3. Will it allow you to grow in wisdom, stature, and favor with God and men? (Luke 2:52)
4. Playing games have time limits attached to their use.

Our kids know my apple ID and password. But they don’t abuse it. They will always ask for permission before getting an app, even if it is free. And they know what their boundaries are in terms of criteria.

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About two years ago, my second son, Edan, got hooked on Plants vs Zombies. He was obsessed with it. It was the first time I became concerned about letting the kids use the iPad for fun. I felt like we had opened a Pandora’s box as a family and let in the game monster. Edan of all my other children seemed to have a greater tendency towards addiction. He was more vulnerable.

In fact he admitted to me recently that the danger of computer games for him is he thinks about them even when he isn’t playing.

Every child is different and as parents we need to know what their strengths and weaknesses are. Elijah, for example, can self regulate and say, “Okay, I don’t want to play with gadgets for a week because I don’t want to get addicted.” And he can busy himself with reading and other interests.

However, Edan is different. He has a harder time controlling his desire for gaming. So we need to help him and avoid putting him in predicaments where he can “feed” that side of him.

A few days ago he came up to me asking if he could install a certain app. It was a game. It wasn’t educational. I struggled as a mom. Edan is a good son. By God’s grace, he is obedient, too. When he asked me, I could see the DESIRE in his eyes. He wanted the game and his happiness seemed to hinge on my response.

So I gave him the opportunity to present why he liked the game, to hear him out. And then I asked him very gently and thoughtfully, “Is this game educational?”

He answered, “No.”

“Is it a business game? Will it teach you business principles?”

“No.” His shoulders hunched over and he seemed disheartened.

“Will it help you to grow in wisdom, stature, favor with God and man? (Luke 2:52)

He shook his head and started to tear.

“Do you think you should get it then?”

When I asked this, he started to cry out loud. He already knew the answer.

Oh my heart broke as a mom. I hugged him. I knew it was important to him and he wanted the game very badly. He had taken a step of faith when he asked me. And a part of me was tempted to give in and then to remove the app later
on if it really was destructive.

But I had to be consistent. I had to consider his greater good and not just his present happiness. So I said something like this…”Edan, mommy wants you to enjoy playing games. I like you to have fun. But you need to find a game that will help you to develop a skill. It can’t be for entertainment purposes only. So why don’t you find something that is educational and present it to me as an option?”

Well, he was able to find an incredible app called Paper 53. It’s a great app for artists. Edan understands balance and symmetry without having learned these concepts so I know that he can hone his artistic abilities. When he showed me the app, I heartily agreed to get it for him because it would be a profitable use of his time.

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I wanted to share this because we need to teach our older children to make wise choices, to weigh the pros and cons of a decision. When they are younger, we can pull off the “obey because I said so.” But this has to change as they grow up. We don’t want them to obey on the outside but harbor resentment and rebellion on the inside. So it helps to get them to think through their decision making process, especially when it comes to dealing with the desires of the heart.

My parents used the same approach with me when I was interested in dating someone who would have been a poor choice. They took me out to dinner and asked me the right questions. Over the course of the conversation, just like Edan, I cried, but I knew what I had to do. I was able to arrive at a discerning conclusion and I did not entertain the guys attempts to pursue a relationship with me. I was 15.

We don’t want to raise children who have an underdeveloped capacity for sound judgement. So it helps to start off with clear principles that we want to live by as a family. And then we need to teach these to our children, reinforcing these principles by our own adherence to them and our consistency in upholding them in the home. When they are in predicaments that can lead to a violation of a principle, the asking-questions-part comes in. Let them consider whether their choices or actions favor those principles or go against them so they take ownership of their decisions. It also helps when we communicate trust in their capacity to make wise choices that please God because he is present in their lives.

A plan in the heart of a man is like deep water, But a man of understanding draws it out. (Proverbs 20:5 NASB)

PARAPHRASED FOR PARENTING: “The intentions in the heart of a child are like deep waters but a parent of understanding draws them out.”

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Back to a 10

When we go out on dates, Edric and I will try to ask each other, “On a scale of 1 – 10, how would you rate our marriage?” This becomes a starting point to discuss how we can improve and meet one another’s needs. We also do this with the couples that are in our bible study group, asking them to give their spouses a score. If it’s less than 10, we say, “What will make it a 10?” Usually the men give a higher score than the women do so it always leads to interesting but helpful dialogues.

Lately, Edric and I have been so busy we haven’t had any quality dates. And I told him on several occasions that he had too much going on. He acknowledged this but there was already a momentum to everything that was happening and he had to ride the wave of activity to close the year.

By yesterday morning, however, I was tired of feeling de-prioritized. So when he asked me in passing, How’s our marriage, 1 – 10? I said it was a ZERO. I’ve never said that. But I was really sad about the state of our relationship. I felt like we were drifting apart. We needed to address the issues that were polarizing us.

Since Edric’s calendar had been packed with speaking engagements in and out of town with Elijah, his ANC tapings, TMA Homeschool activities, house building meetings and ministry commitments there was no time to talk.

When we did encounter one another, there was tension between us because he was harried and always had something more urgent to attend to (which annoyed me.) So I decided to withdraw. I didn’t want to be a needy person, a cling-on, a ganglion cyst. My own interests kept me busy. If he wasn’t going to initiate re-connecting I wouldn’t.

After I opened up to him and expressed that I didn’t think we were doing well, that I didn’t think our relationship was healthy, he teased me about being so dramatic. But I was serious. So he assured me that we would find time to talk about it. He just had to finish his events for the day.

We had a Christmas gathering in Antipolo with our bible study group in the afternoon and I went ahead with the kids because Edric was coming from another event. When he finally got to the party he mentioned that we could ride home together to talk since it would take us a while to get home. And, the kids could go home in another vehicle. I was looking forward to being with him.

However, as the evening was drawing to a close, Edric told me that I would go on ahead with the kids because he was planning to play NBA with the men in Pasig. SERIOUSLY?! That was my first thought. I just opened up to you about how things aren’t going well between us and how busy you have been and now that you have some free time you are going to go off and play a computer game?! I was livid. But I didn’t show it because he had mentioned the change in plans in front of a friend.

When we had a moment to interact in private, I said with irritation, “I don’t understand why you have to go off tonight.” And he replied, “Is this an issue, because we can make it an issue.” Well, that was it. WAR. My warfare is not the shouting, fighting kind. I am a quiet slayer.

At 8:00, I went home and Edric went off with the guys. In the van, with the children, I acted like everything was fine. I didn’t want to bring the kids into the conflict between Edric and I. In fact, when Elijah mentioned, “So Dad is not going home with us?” I didn’t make a big deal out of it. I said something like, “Yup, he is going to hang out with the men.”

At home, by myself, was another story. I put Catalina into her crib and I sat down on the bed to get in a little bit of writing. I started to cry. Usually, I wouldn’t have made a big deal out of him going out. The guys are “safe.” They hang out to play NBA once in a while. It’s harmless. It’s clean fun. Plus, they are our good friends.

What bothered me was the timing. He completely forgot that we were supposed to “fix” our relationship…that we were supposed to ride home together and have an important conversation. I felt angry and hurt. Of course, being a woman, all my thoughts became convoluted and tangled themselves into a ball of wire.

He is changing. He doesn’t care about my feelings. He would rather be with the guys than with me. He’s becoming so selfish, leaving us to go home so he can run off and have fun with his friends. If I went off to hang out with my girl friends and left him to be with the kids he would be upset. And he was acting like I was making an issue out of nothing.

Wow. I’m just going to withdraw and detach myself. Of course, these were prideful thoughts and they were judgmental and wrong.

(LIKE I’VE SAID MANY TIMES, WE DON’T HAVE A PERFECT MARRIAGE! )

This morning, before our church’s service, my strategy was to be as frigid as possible without being disrespectful. I made him a yummy omelet to be dutiful but I didn’t plan to eat it with him. I had breakfast ahead with the kids and left him a plate with his food on it. After getting Catalina ready and making sure everyone else was dressed for Sunday worship, I barely interacted with him. I told myself, I will answer with one-liners and shrugs, keep my voice monotone, barely make eye contact unless absolutely necessary, and not initiate conversation. Embarrassingly juvenile but I was hurt and wounded. There was no motivation to be cheerful and chatty. Of course this behavior was NOT okay.

In the car, it was quiet for a long time. The Lord spoke to me, “talk to him.” I wrestled…I don’t want to talk!!! “Say something.” I don’t want to say something!!!

I said something to the kids. “Look, it’s the Santa house.” (There was a house that looked like its owner was obsessed with Santa Claus. There were like 20 huge Santas hanging everywhere.) I eventually said SOMETHING to Edric but it was quick.

It didn’t take long before Edric noticed that I was behaving very uncharacteristically. When he asked me why, I explained that I felt hurt that he left us to go off and hang out with the guys, especially after I had told him that we really needed to work on our marriage and settle some issues. At first, he wasn’t very sympathetic. He expected me to understand that playing games with the guys was a much needed break for him, from all the work-related stress he had to deal with as of late.

At some point I said, “Well, how would you feel if I went off with my girl friends until 3 AM in the morning and you were at home with the kids? Would that be okay?” He didn’t appreciate this attempt to flip roles around and he walked away. Walked away?!

During worship, he mentioned to me that what I had said was childish. I shouldn’t have retorted but unfortunately, I did. I leaned over to him and disrespectfully said, “Don’t you dare call me childish.” (In my still monotone voice.)

“Are you threatening me?” was his response. Oh my, this was going downhill.

Could I sing worship songs to the Lord after that? Nope. I took Catalina from her yaya and held her as a prop because I needed a distraction.

During the course of the morning, God spoke to me. A man shared about his life’s journey from worldly success that left him empty and suicidal to an abundant life when he came to know Jesus Christ. And I felt wretched at that point for being so full of myself. All of the funk and muck I had been feeling was not due to Edric. I was blaming him and making my happiness dependent on the way he treated me. But my anchor is Jesus Christ. My joy comes from him. My ability to love Edric and my children comes from him.

Amazingly, Edric turned into his sweet self again. He was convicted during the service, too. In the middle of the pastor’s message, he put his arm around me and jokingly teased, “You love me. You know you do…” Of course, he apologized, especially when he realized that he had set me up with an expectation – the expectation of riding home together to talk – and completely abandoned it. He tried to charm me and say all kinds of things to make me smile….“I’m madly in love with you,” he said, “My love makes you mad right?!”

I’m pretty easy. A little attentiveness from Edric mixed in with lots of cheesy phrases makes me respond with enthusiasm. And he knows it. He knows how to charm me. But I’m glad he isn’t just a smooth talker. He really does follow through with what he says when he makes claims like, “I will make it up to you…” “I’m going to change…” And I believe him because I know he loves Jesus and that is the reason why he really means it when he says that he loves me, too.

Having these sorts of conflicts and getting past them is a reminder that marriage isn’t an easy stroll through a park full of sweet smelling flowers. It takes hard work and it has to be held together by Jesus, at the center. Colossians 1: 17 tells us “in HIM all things hold together.” If Jesus wasn’t in our marriage, Edric and I would be stuck at zero to five on the relationship scale. We would be attempting to solve our problems on our own insufficient power. Our effort wouldn’t cut it because apart from Christ, our tendency is towards selfishness. So even if marriage has its lows, because we love Jesus and let his love motivate us and overflow out of us, it can certainly bounce back to a 10!

By God’s grace, we eventually resolved our conflict by discussing the root issues maturely. I also said sorry for my disrespectful comment. And we just came from a date, holding hands, eating Vietnamese noodles and watching a movie. I’m happy to say that after the cold war (on my part at least), our relationship is healthy again. Praise God!

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