Archives for January 2014

To Buy Or Not To Buy A Designer Bag

A very pretty lady, impeccably dressed and with hair in perfectly set waves (hair I wish I had), came up to me and asked if I could write about managing finances, specifically in the area of curtailing materialism. She confessed that she liked to buy designer bags and asked how I stopped myself from doing so.

Well, first off, I don’t think it’s wrong to buy designer things. The devil is not Prada. Some people see it as an investment. Others can afford luxury without putting themselves in debt.

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However, there are occasions when it could be very wrong. For example, if you overspend (buy above your means) or if you have a compulsion to keep buying beyond your needs.

Whatever the reason or motive, I think each of us ought to be discerning about how we spend money. This article is not meant to be a guilt trip. But I intend to share my own perspective on luxury spending, particularly in the area of buying bags, clothes, shoes, jewelry or watches. Please don’t take it like I am judging every woman who wants to go out and buy herself a designer bag or two or three or so on (you know who you are ;)). I just have a different vantage point which may help someone who wants to re-evaluate her spending habits, someone who earnestly feels like she may want to change and channel her resources elsewhere.

Read on at your own risk…

I used to be a barefoot girl climbing trees, catching tadpoles, and playing with monkeys. My life was far removed from the city and shopping malls. More importantly, my mom was a simple person. She never spent alot on herself or on dolling me up. She always looked put together and she dressed me up nicely, but her spending habits were very controlled.

Up til this day most of her clothes come from the tiangge or Ross (when she visits my sister in the U.S.) So I suppose her example of frugality rubbed off on me. I did not see her buying luxury goods when I was living at home, so I didn’t develop an appetite for these things either.

What kind of spending habits did your parents have? What did they model for you? It’s very possible that they passed on to you the kind of perspective you have on spending.

It may be hard to believe but I cannot imagine paying more than 5k for a bag. Almost everyone I know who is my age has at least one luxury bag that costs 10 times as much. And others are willing to spend a hundred times more.

Personally, I don’t want to be holding or wearing anything that would tempt someone to chop my arm off. Furthermore, I really don’t feel like a bag is worth that much. Some women will say I have no idea what I am talking about. And they are absolutely right. I don’t. I am not a bag connoisseur.

But no matter what crocodile is killed to become a handbag, I would never be able to stomach paying thousand of dollars for it, even if it was made to look pretty in its after life. While I can appreciate the quality of luxury, unless the actual materials used to make a bag are near the equivalent value of the price, I think it’s a bad deal.

Everyone knows this right? Deep inside, we aren’t stupid. The difference is we all have built-in thresholds for what we are willing to pay for an item or an experience. Plus, there is the factor of what we can afford.

Life is about choices. Edric and I may not spend a lot of money on luxury products but we may spend it on a trip out of the country. Building a memory together as a couple or family is something we value more. Right now our resources are also going into our house building so that’s our present priority. Others may be able to spend on whatever their heart desires, but it isn’t common to be able to afford to do everything. Most of us have to make choices.

When it comes to bags, if I can buy something functional that does the job it doesn’t have to be branded. I want it to look stylish and well made but I have an amount that I will not go over when I make a purchase. This limits my options so I have to find deals online or in stores.

Admittedly, there are occasions when I want to pay more. But I have to remember God owns all the money Edric and I have. We are just stewards of the financial blessings he has given us. Therefore I cannot, in good conscience, pay a ridiculous amount of money for a bag when I can buy one that serves the same purpose for much cheaper.

I understand that expensive and cheaper can be relative to what a person is used to spending. But if the amount could feed a sizable orphanage for atleast a week or two, then it might be worth considering whether that money should be going to an orphanage. Just a thought. 😉

What about jewelry or watches? According to my husband Edric, who has interviewed a lot of financial experts on his TV show, jewelry and watches (depending on the brand) can be a good investment. But here is why I don’t spend for these things either. I am a practical gal. My jewelry is 90% fancy. Why? It would stress me out to have to worry about taking care of diamonds or any sort of precious stone or metal that I could lose. I don’t want the hassle of having to put jewelry in a safe. In fact, I feel very relaxed when our maids clean the bedroom. They are trustworthy but it helps that there’s nothing to take…nothing to tempt them…nothing to put into their pockets. The most precious things in our home are the people in it.

Furthermore, Edric prefers that we invest our money for the future. One of my personal dreams is to be able to buy a property for each of our five kids. I suppose this perspective comes from being the daughter of a land developer. My father’s business is in the housing sector. And like I said, I am practical. You can’t misplace a piece of property. Jewelry can get stolen or lost. With my track record for losing things, I really don’t deserve diamonds or gold.

While it would be sentimental to pass on to my children jewelry or time pieces, I would prefer to hand them the title to a plot of land. Tiny watch or a partial surface of the earth? Hmm…it’s a no brainer for me but everyone ascribes value differently. Apart from passing on a godly heritage, it would be great if we could help each of our kids get started when they are married. The Bible talks about this…

Now I am ready to visit you for the third time, and I will not be a burden to you, because what I want is not your possessions but you. After all, children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. (2 Corinthians 12:14)

If a person wants to invest in watches and jewelry as well as land or even stocks or a trust fund for their children, why not? It all goes back to motivation and purpose. God is not opposed to enjoying one’s wealth. Look at this Proverb: “It is the blessing of the Lord that makes rich, and He adds no sorrow to it.” (Proverbs 10:22) Some people are so blessed they can invest wherever they want to, and still give magnanimously to others. Praise God for them.

What about shopping for clothes and shoes? I enjoy shopping. But like my mom, I don’t need to buy branded clothing. If I find a wonderful deal then I may do so. However, I really can’t be too extravagant anyway. With the number of children I have, my kids would be naked and hungry if I was always buying things for myself. This is an exaggeration but having kids does diffuse my urge to shop for myself. They always need clothes and shoes because they are growing so fast! So a lot of times I have to shop for them.

The other reason why I control shopping for my own self is I have been pregnant and breastfeeding for so many years of my married life. I am many seasons behind the trends. My bust to waist to hip ratio is ever changing. There is no way to keep up and be fashionable all the time. So my criteria is right fit, color, and a statement of personal style. Not too trendy.

I may buy a trend or two if I really like it but the greater priority for me is to exercise so clothes will fit well. Until I get to the size I really want to be, I hold back on the clothes buying.

It’s also a blessing that I am not in any sort of fancy schmancy job that pressures me to look like a million dollars. Just the other day, I had a huge zit on my face. I mean it was so big I couldn’t believe it was on my face. It looked like a hill. My brother said, “What is that?!”

In contrast, my son turned to me and said, “It’s ok, you still look beautiful mom. Having that (the zit) just makes you look like you work really hard to take care of us.” That’s Elijah, my ever-politically correct son.

The people that I am surrounded with on a daily basis are incredibly BIASED. I don’t have to wear makeup or dress up and they think the world of me. They are my kids. Do they have a choice?! They compliment me all the time just for being me. Kids are awesome. Have lots of them! As for Edric, he just likes me to look clean and put together. Whew.

The kind of company you keep really matters. Do the people you hang out with turn on and feed your materialistic desires?

I will be honest, depending on the social circles I move in, there are times when I am tempted to think, maybe if I have designer things people will respect me more or hold me in higher regard. But when I process where that thought is coming from, the root of it is pride. It is pride telling me that I need material things of a certain standard to be accepted or to feel good about myself. So I go back to who I am in Christ. The God of this universe gave his life for a sinner like me. If he thought that I was worth that much then I certainly don’t need luxury to make me feel valuable.

If you feel like you have to wear designer clothes and accessories to feel better about yourself then it’s worth asking why this is so. Is it just because you are really after quality products or is there some sort of emotional or spiritual need that is being masked by all that spending?

Fifth, there are so many needs around me, so many ways to use money to be a blessing. I like the example of the early church believers. In Acts it says, “All the believers were together and shared everything. They would sell their land and the things they owned and then divide the money and give it to anyone who needed it. The believers met together in the Temple every day. They ate together in their homes, happy to share their food with joyful hearts.” (Acts 2:44-46)

The rest of the passage talks about how the Lord was adding to the numbers of those who were being saved daily. There was something so attractive about the believers’ lifestyle of sharing and giving to one another. People were coming to Jesus because of how they were caring for each other.

This passage provides a cure for materialism. Instead of thinking what else can I buy for myself, the mindset ought to be what else can I give?

One group of people I really enjoy giving to is our household help. Periodically, I go through my closets and take out a bunch of items and tell them they can have it all. Because they don’t have alot, they are always so appreciative.

Their presence in my life teaches me to be grateful for all the comforts I have. And even if they don’t know it, they keep me grounded in terms of shopping. Whenever I shop, I think about the kind of example I am setting for them and the impact I am making on them. I don’t want them to wrestle with jealousy or envy. They don’t have the liberty to buy themselves the same things that I can. So when I am tempted to make an expensive purchase, I think about them as my standard. How would they feel if they saw the price tag? It helps to use their purchasing capacity as a reference point instead of comparing myself to people who are really wealthy.

So do I struggle with materialism? Of course. I like things…things that are pretty, sparkly, well designed, tasteful, and expensive. But I choose to manage my desires by thinking about what I am spending on and why I am spending.

At the end of the day, whatever shopping habits I have must be filtered by contentment, motivation and stewardship. And just to clarify, a materialistic person is not someone who spends less. It’s someone who looks to possessions to fill a space that ought to belong to Jesus. Any of us can be susceptible to that. We need to come to the point where we know that only Jesus can bring us true satisfaction. And we need to recognize when the love for the world is replacing our love for God.

Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 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. (1 John 2:15, 16 NASB)

Here are some helpful heart questions to ask ourselves when we shop…

Am I being a good steward of the money God has given our family?
Is there a better way to spend or invest this money?
Am I faithfully managing the budgets assigned to me by my husband?
How can I use money to bless others and meet needs around me?
Will I cause people to stumble or be envious of me if I am extravagant? What are my motivations when I want to buy myself more things? Is it to impress people? Is it really a need?
Am I trying to project an image to others that is rooted in pride?
Is my desire for material things increasing at a greater rate than my desire to feed on God’s word and spend time with him?
How are my purchases indicative of where my heart is?

“for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21 NASB)

Here’s a thought I would like to leave you with. My brother in law, Joel, passed on to Edric and I very insightful wisdom from his father about spending. “If it’s a need, find a way to afford it. If it’s a want, no amount will be worth it.”

Luxury bags, clothing, and accessories fall under the category of “want” and not “need” for me. I will not judge those who feel otherwise. Afterall, bags, shoes, clothing, watches, jewelry…these things are not the true measure of person. God sees past material things to the heart that is within.

If you forget everything I have written here, reflect on this…I like what my dad said during one Sunday service, if you love God with all your heart, you are free to do whatever you please. I had to think about that statement but it made absolute sense. If you love God with everything that you are, you will make choices that honor him. What you want will be what God wants. Therefore the question, “how do you stop yourself from buying designer bags?” is not a more important question that this one…Do you love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength? If you do, you will know what to do the next time you go shopping! God will give you peace about whether you should make your next purchase or not. 😉

Men Need Men to Become Men

Boys benefit from man-building activities that encourage the development of their manhood. When I say man-building activities I mean experiences that are like “man-versus-wild” kind of stuff – camping, mountain-climbing, scouting – and sports.

When Edric was growing up, my father-in-law, Eddie (Papa to me), invested time teaching him how to fly kites, scuba dive, climb mountains, boogie board, fish, sail, repel, bike, play ball, and swim…among other things. This is how they bonded, in the context of activity. Edric has always remembered these father and son occasions with fondness. And I have appreciated the attractive masculine traits that Edric acquired because of them.

Men need a good adventure and challenge, but they also need a man who has gone before them to pass on survival skills and know-how.

Our sons had the opportunity to take on a good adventure and challenge when Papa invited Edric, Elijah and Edan to climb Mt. Batulao last Saturday. Edric and the boys were thrilled. I was jealous because I wanted to go, too. But this was an experience that Edric wanted to share with the boys – just the guys. I had the other three kids to take care of anyway.

Early Saturday morning, Elijah and Edan had their hiking shoes on and were set to go at 5 AM. They packed their energy food – peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, trail mix, hard boiled eggs with salt on the side, granola bars, and water. Elijah was in charge of carrying the water and Edric carried the food. They got to Batulao 2 hours later and met up with Papa.

Initially, as they began their climb, Edan complained about the prickly tall grass and fatigue. But he wasn’t being a soiled brat. This was no tiny mountain! It was two and a half hours up one way with 12 peaks!

Edric admitted that he was concerned as he watched the boys scale some of the steep inclines. They could’ve rolled off to their deaths! Sadly, some time ago there was a woman who fell off one of the peaks while trying to take a picture. She died!

Well, I’m glad I didn’t know about that story before they went on the climb. The protective mother in me might have tried to dissuade Edric from taking Edan. But he did great! He was the only 7 year old on the trail and he persevered. Even though he was bickering at the beginning, he thoroughly enjoyed the hike as he went along.

Edric called me at one point during their climb (amazingly, there was a Globe signal), and he gave me an update on how the kids were doing and how much fun they were all having. What I would have given to have been there! I wanted to see their expressions and be a part of this special moment in their lives. But without me around they were better off. There was no nurturing mother figure to turn to for sympathy when they got tired or tripped and skinned their knees. The boys had to stick it out, suck it in, and push themselves under the guidance of Edric and Papa.

When they got home, they were exhausted, bruised and cut up, but they were smiling like they just had the time of their lives. They also had a certain satisfaction in their tone when they spoke about their trek. Thanks to Papa and Edric, the boys learned to overcome their fears, weaknesses, and put in the hard work and effort necessary to achieve a goal they were proud of.

How valuable it is when fathers and grandfathers mentor their sons and set aside time to help them become men. Climbing a mountain together is not the only way to do this but it sure worked for my boys. They went up Mt. Batulao as two clueless boys but they came down as wiser, stronger, more confident young men!
 

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Stop and Pay Attention

My dad is an incredibly busy man. With all his ministry work, meetings, trips out of the country, message preparation, business concerns, and parenting and grandparenting, I am amazed at how he manages everything with such balance. It is most certainly God’s grace in his life. But he has also mastered the ability to prioritize what is most important. No matter how busy he gets, he will make time for my mom, my siblings, our spouses, and our kids.

The other day he was in the middle of preparing for his preaching series on the book of Genesis but the kids wanted to show him something.

“Angkong, come see what we made!” They were so excited to bring him to their Magnatile creation. He was practicing his message on me but he followed them into the room.
 

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They had built this amazing entrance that looked like stained glass with Magnatiles (a plastic toy for building and construction). My dad went in and out of the opening to appreciate it and applaud the kids.

I watched the way he cheerfully interacted with my kids and acknowledged their “masterpiece” even though he had to focus on his message. The kids beamed. It mattered that their creation was validated by him, that he gave them his time.

My husband Edric is also a good example to me. He is great about giving me license to interrupt him or bug him. When I call him he will answer unless he is taping or doesn’t have his phone around. If he is in a meeting, he will pick up my call and ask “Is this urgent?” If it is, he will drop what he is doing to attend to me. If it isn’t, he will tell me when he is available to talk or ask me to call him again later on. But I really appreciate it when he picks up the phone and let’s me know that I am a priority.

I want to be the same way with my kids. Sometimes, I can be dismissive towards them when I’m in the middle of an activity. Or I am half-present while typing on my laptop or surfing the Internet on my IPad.

It may not be necessary to leave every single thing I am doing when my children come clamoring for my attention. But the point is to STOP and PAY ATTENTION by putting the IPad down, turning off the TV, hitting the pause button on the remote, setting the book aside, or getting off the computer so I can look at my children in the eye and let them know that I am engaged and 100% present when they come to me. I want them to know that they are always worth my time, that they have special access to me. As the most important people in my life, they should be convinced that they are!

Praise God, They Don’t Drool Forever


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Titus used to drool everywhere. He would drool on toys, on furniture, on people, on himself…In fact, he had to wear a bib until he was about four years old! The saliva would just dribble down his chin. Good thing he was a cutiepie because his cuteness offset the drooling.

For a while I wondered if it was something neurological, so I did some research about it. There were some studies that indicated a connection to neurological disorders.  I was also a little concerned because his speech ability developed later than his siblings. He had a hard time articulating his thoughts in a coherent way. His memory was not too good either and he had difficulty holding a writing instrument.

So here was a drooling, not-too-communicative, writing and memory challenged child who was highly curious and got his hands into everything. I could have been worried and stressed but I decided to relax. I knew that these things didn’t have to define his future or his success. God had a plan for him. (He has a plan for him.)

If he had gone to a preschool he might have been labeled all kinds of things but at home, he was free to develop according to God’s time table for him.  I was able to enjoy him without feeling pressured by standards and measures. My role (and Edric’s) was to provide him with an environment and climate that encouraged his growth and was accommodating of his uniqueness.

For his drooling, I would tell him, “This is how you swallow your saliva.” And I would literally show him how to sip it in and swallow. But I did it like a game, something fun, making the sipping sound exaggerated. I taught him how to keep his jaw closed so his mouth wasn’t gaping open.

No one was allowed to make fun of him or make him feel uncomfortable and self conscious about his drooling. The kids were instructed to be understanding and I wasn’t negative about his problem. I would just remind him to close his mouth and swallow his saliva everytime I noticed that his jaw was hanging open.

Well I am happy to say that when he turned four he didn’t need a bib anymore. I know most babies outgrow bibs by two but I was thrilled when he learned to control his drool and keep his mouth closed!

As for his memory, Edric got him to memorize bible verses along side his brothers. At first it seemed impossible for him to commit verses to memory. But Edric would work with him using actions and eventually Titus was the one telling his older siblings what words came next.

When I had to teach him sight words and he couldn’t get them, I made up songs for him and it worked! Since he was inclined to music, this aided his retention.

With expressing his ideas, I tried to be extra patient when I would ask him questions. This gave him time to think through his answers. He wasn’t rushed or made to feel like his silence was unacceptable. He was allowed to process his thoughts.

Eventually he learned how to use the right words and phrases to say what was on his mind. His vocabulary expanded and he became very vocal and opinionated. Of course, he is still growing in his ability to articulate himself.

When I remember Titus as an adorable drooling baby and observe him today, I am just amazed at how much he has grown and developed. By God’s grace, he is a happy, obedient, independent, easy going, kind, intelligent, and confident 5 year old.

We still have a long way to go with training and discipling him to become the man that God wants him to be. In the meantime, I live with the continual hope that Titus’s future (like all my other kids’ futures) is full of God-given possibilities. I focus on the positive, not the negative.

When my brother was a child, he used to stutter. It didn’t manifest itself in his speech but it was apparent when he would read aloud. As a result, he was very self-conscious about reading in public. In fact, he would have a hard time reading in front of our family. When he was asked to read bible verses, he would struggle through them. However, no one made a big deal out of his problem. We didn’t even think of it as a problem. Amazingly, he preaches and teaches the Bible today. He is a great Bible teacher. Through God’s help, he was able to overcome his difficulty. 

My mom used to say, “Don’t see people for who they are now but who they can become in Christ.”

Through Christ, our children can do all things if he wills it. By his grace, they can overcome their present limitations, character weaknesses, childish thinking and behavior. So we need to connect our kids to Christ, and fix our faith on Christ who is in them. And with hopeful expectation, our part is to train them, to speak to them with life-giving words, to love them towards Christ, to disciple them in the area of character, and to use strategies that encourage their growth. If we do this then we can entrust their strides, successes, and accomplishments to the Lord. God knows exactly who our children need to become in order to accomplish his purposes.

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The Idolatry of Equality

It’s Not Fair! That’s my battlecry as a wife when I buy into the idolatry of equality.

Last week I got my nails done and accidentally messed up two toenails by snagging them on a grocery cart. They were such a pretty bluegreen color with glitter on top. When I destroyed them on the wheel of the cart, I absolutely had to return to the salon to repair the damage.

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No guy will understand how important this is. My husband certainly didn’t. I was thirty minutes late from my discussed ETA with him. He expected me to be home when he got back from his retreat and I wasn’t.

Edric doesn’t like coming home to a wife-less house. He always looks forward to seeing me. When I am not around it is a real downer for him.

When I got home, one of the first things he told me was, “You know how important it is to me that you are here when I get home. I really wanted to spend time with you and talk to you about the retreat and you said you would be back, but I came home and you weren’t.” Not the most romantic conversation after being apart for a day and a half. Plus, he was emotionally distant because he was frustrated with me.

At first I tried to explain the nail incident, but his reply was, “So what.” His perspective was if you said you would be back, then there should be no excuse.

But in my mind, I was like, So what?! I was just 30 minutes late! Really?! Hey, didn’t you just come from a retreat?! Is this the application…be irritated with your wife?

I will cut through the dramatic hours of silent treatment and fast-forward to the part where we settled the matter with apologies. I asked for forgiveness for being late and he asked for forgiveness for being over reactive.

The incident really wasn’t a big deal. But, a woman’s heart has all sorts of turns, corners and pockets where residual hurt and anger get stored if we don’t flush these emotions out.

Just two mornings later when Edric’s chirpy alarm woke me up at 5 am and Catalina started crying, I thought, It is MY turn to be grumpy. He forgot to turn off his phone alarm setting the night before. Since it was charging on the other side of the room, it went off for a while. Great, I thought, there is no way Catalina will let herself be put back down after that…especially since it went off a second time! With hardly a night’s sleep, I thought I had every right to put on an air of, This is your fault that my sleep was interrupted. You owe me now. Cha-Ching! Time to cash in on some emotional pay back time. How can I make him feel badly? (Self-centered married people are funny like that.)

First, I tried to make more noise than usual as I got out of bed. A deep sigh, creaking the bed a little, chucking the pillows back on to the bed, picking up Catalina from her crib and talking to her as I changed her diaper.

Edric didn’t notice any of this because he went straight back to sleep.

Sigh. Oh well…

I decided to take Catalina outdoors for an early morning prayer walk. That’s right, a prayer walk. So holy. Not.

The wonderful thing about prayer is I cannot come before God in spirit and in truth unless I acknowledge my sins before him. So I sought to understand the grumblings in my heart and I traced it back to this: idolatry of equality.

If Edric can get irritated at me for being 30 minutes late then why can’t I be irritated for being awoken an hour too early by his phone alarm?

And then a thought came to me. It wasn’t mine. It was delivered by the Holy Spirit. Why are you so upset? Why must everything be about equality.

Hmm…I don’t know. Because it’s my right?

If Edric holds me to a certain standard or expectation then I want to require the same of him…you know, to be fair…

I am absolutely sure that all women can identify with me, married or single.

In fact, some weeks ago I received a comment from a reader (who will probably never visit my blog again). She said she doesn’t agree with the idea that a woman must follow a man’s leading. I don’t blame her for her vehemence against the biblical concept of husband and wife relationships. It can seem “unequal” and “unfair.” It looks like a husband gets all the power and a wife gets the raw end of the deal.

However, this really depends on a person’s worldview. I have a biblical worldview so I absolutely believe that God’s prescriptions for living are for our good. I have experienced this good and observed this in others, too.

Nonetheless, I definitely understand why women want equal treatment, respect, and opportunity. Each one of us, in one way or another has experienced “unfair” treatment as a woman — being labeled, taken for granted, cast aside, or abused. And our instinct is to protect, defend and fight for what we think is due us.

However, I had an epiphany that morning as I was walking and praying. God ministered to me. My cry for fairness and equality was corrupting my heart. Unless I had it, unless I was treated the way I deemed in accordance with my worth then I was not happy.

But am I really worth anything? I am a recipient of grace I don’t deserve. Jesus died for me. He paid a debt he did not owe for a sinner like me. (Romans 5:8) So my worth is really dependent on the Lord, not me.

Furthermore, the condition for healthy, loving, and God-glorifying relationships is not equality. It’s not, “you give your 50% and I will give my 50%.” The key is to keep growing in Christ-likeness, regardless of your spouse.

Edric is a wonderful, wonderful, God-fearing and loving husband. I’ve talked a lot about this in other posts. But there are instances when I’m like, Who is this person?! How can he think and behave that way?! You can ask him and he would say the same of me. I call it carnal seepage – when selfishness leaks out of us.

If equality is the standard, the expectation in marriage, then it is doomed for sorrow. Marriage is so much about dying to self, letting God be the winner, letting him get the glory. John 12:24 says that unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies it can bear no fruit.

When my marriage becomes about what I want at the expense of God’s principles and his word, I trade true and lasting joy for present gratification. For example, the act of vengeance can make anyone feel good at first. But a vengeful person is not really a happy person.

Or, what about someone who insists that they ought to be accepted and respected for their lifestyle choice – a choice that goes against God’s design and will for them? How can they be at peace deep inside? Initially, they may feel like they are living the life they always wanted. But give it time and they will meet an emptiness, a longing, and a desperate desire that can only be filled by God.

A few Sundays ago a very successful businessman shared that he once had everything a man could want — fame, fortune, women (besides his wife). He only thought of himself. But at a certain point, he realised it all meant nothing and he wanted to end his life. But God found him. He came into a relationship with Jesus Christ and his life was redeemed. His marriage was restored. The people around him whom he cared about began to want Jesus, too, because of his testimony.

I’ve heard countless stories like these that affirm a truth we must all confront sooner or later. Our greatest joy, our best life is found in Christ, in living according to his plan and purpose for us. The unchanging condition for experiencing this is to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and to love and obey him with everything that we are.

When people disagree with this, I don’t lose sleep over their opposing view. If they really don’t want Jesus they can try life their own way. God gives us freedom to choose our version of happiness. Temporal or eternal? It’s like those Choose Your Own Adventure Books I used to read when I was a child. The ending was entirely my fault, in accord with my choices.

So going back to marriage. When I choose to submit to Edric, when I honor him and respect him, when I treat him with greater regard for my own preferences and it seems unfair that I have to give in, it’s not because I have a martyr complex. It’s not because I am the inferior sex in the relationship. It’s because I trust in God’s design for marriage. I believe that he is holy, loving, and good. He loves Edric and me the same. He died for both of us. He has given us the same inheritance in the faith. I know that choosing to glorify him results in my gain and not my loss. With God you never trade down, you always trade up. His ways are always better.

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As a bonus…Edric told me that his new year’s resolution is to be Christ-like in his behavior and attitudes. God has been convicting him to be more patient, loving, understanding, and considerate. He has also been asking me periodically, Have I been more Christ-like? I already had an amazing husband. Sure, he has his moments of “carnal seepage” just like I do, but with God, every year of marriage gets better.

So does it pay to insist on equality? Let’s have a higher standard. Let’s insist on being Christ-like towards our spouse, children, and others, and let God be the one to repay us as we live to please him.

 

 

 

Group Homeschooling

What a beautifully chaotic morning I had homeschooling 7 children and breastfeeding two babies. My sister-in-law, Jenny, is sick so I invited two of her four kids to come over to homeschool with us. (One of my nephews had a fever.) And my sister, Carolyn, left her three-week old daughter behind because she had to attend to an event in Taytay. I asked her if Natasha would last the two hours that she was gone. She assured me that she would…and, worse case, if she didn’t, I was to feed her.

Ack. I love my sister. But, I’ve never fed another person’s baby. It was a first for me when Natasha started acting up and her yaya handed her to me because I was the only option. Thankfully, she was easy to feed. It felt bizarre and familiar at the same time.

I group-homeschooled until about 12:30 and the kids did just fine. We started off with a morning devotion followed by an art project. I taught the kids how to create textured paint cards using a toothbrush, cotton buds, blocks, straws, a comb, etc. And then we let the cards dry and I cut them up into various sized rectangles. Afterwards, I let the kids make personalized works of art. They had to use the texture cards to form the first letters of their name. With the left-over pieces we made a collage.

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In between waiting for the cards to dry the kids did their writing, reading, mathematics, and grammar work. I didn’t get to do much with Tiana so she just colored. I also had to breastfeed two babies at different occasions. And while I was away, some mayhem ensued but I was always able to return just in time to get things orderly again. And, I had a reporter – Edan.

At one point, I heard really loud singing and Edan came to the door and said something like, “I think you need to come back.” There was a tone of urgency in his voice. So I did and got them back to their seats to continue working.

Elijah and Edan are pretty independent learners so I assigned them their work and they got right to it. As for my niece, nephew, and Titus, I had to be in close proximity to them. I hovered around them to assist them when I was needed. But they all did great. They wanted to “surprise me” with their progress.

I’ve used this tactic with my kids to get them to focus. I will say, “Okay, I won’t look, and then surprise me when you are done!” It becomes a challenge and a game. They are motivated to accomplish their material. The kids were also excited to finish early so they could play with one another afterwards. This is one of the advantages of homeschooling with other children.

What are some tricks to homeschooling many kids and not going crazy? These are the tips that worked for me today…

  1. Prepare materials in advance. Once the kids are all present, they need to have something productive to do. If you aren’t ready with your supplies, books, and activities, you end up wasting a lot of time and the kids get restless.
  2. Lay down the ground rules, one of which is, “If we are going to homeschool together, then I want you to focus on your work.” Another one is cleaning up after they make a mess.
  3. Put tabs on the pages that you want the kids to get done if they are working in books. They will know their goals without having to ask.
  4. Pray aloud before you start.
  5. Use an authoritative tone that tells the kids you mean business but speak kindly to them. Be in control but don’t be too controlling.
  6. See yourself as a facilitator and not as a teacher standing in front with a blackboard. I move about the room checking on everyone while they are seated around a large table. When they need me I respond. If I see a child struggling, I attend to them. But as much as possible, I let them do their work on their own.
  7. Allow the kids to see one another’s progress. It encourages them to keep up and it fosters healthy competition, for as long as there is no comparing going on. I don’t say things like, “Look at what so-and-so did, you should do your work like that, too.” Instead, I say, “Look at what so-and-so did!” Then, I address the person and say, “Great job! I’m so proud of you!” I also find something to affirm about everyone.
  8. Give feedback as often as possible. If you notice that a child isn’t quite getting it, spend some time beside them to show them how to do their work correctly. But don’t cripple them by making them dependent on you. Show them and then let them figure it out. If they still don’t get it, review again, and then give them space to do it on their own. When they are successful, commend their effort. (If they still don’t understand, especially in an area like math, they may have a learning gap so back track a little so they can master previous content.) Tell them, “I’m going to help you to learn,” so they know you are committed to their success. Don’t say things like, “I already taught you this. Why can’t you get it?!”
  9. When it’s reading practice time, invite the other children to listen to the person reading. I did this with my niece and I said, “Let’s take turns reading. You read one word and I will read the next one.” And then I put Tiana on my lap to listen to her cousin. We did this back and forth reading for about three pages and then my niece confidently read the rest of the book aloud by herself.
  10. Be enthusiastic about learning together. It keeps everyone positive. Make comments like, “This is so fun!” “I’m glad we can do this together.”
  11. Give breaks (especially to the ones who like to move). I sent two of the boys to the kitchen and asked them to come back with sliced apples to share. They distributed these to everyone and then returned to their seats.
  12. Use rewards like stickers, smiley faces on their completed work. I pulled out a bunch of stickers and the kids were like, “I want one!” So I said, “Whoever finishes first, gets to choose first.”
  13. Seat children in the right areas. Generally, I use a big table where everyone can sit. But, Elijah needed his own space so he could concentrate. He was at another side of the room. Titus and my nephew were looking forward to sitting together so I put them side-by-side. When my nephew struggled through a page of his phonics work, Titus looked over and was eager to help. Tiana sat beside my niece (whom she looks up to). For as long as my niece was seated, Tiana didn’t move either. She sat still coloring for a long time.
  14. Give older kids responsibilities. Edan finished his work earlier so he made “prizes” for everyone at a separate table. He handed these out to the kids and created awards for best art, best work, etc.
  15. Do group activities that require cooperation and collaboration. Art is always a great way to do this because it cuts across ages.
  16. Rely on God’s grace to enjoy and get through a day like this. I always believe that God supplies for the occasion. He sustained me this morning and kept the kids teachable and focused.

After lunch, you can bet I was pretty exhausted so I locked my door to hang out with Catalina and take a nap!

Here is my take on group homeschooling…It works well with children who have been trained by their parents to obey and respond to authority. Praise God my brother and my sister-in-law have done a great job training their kids. I would also say that up to 8 young children is “doable” but more than 8 may require the help of another parent.

 

 

 

 

Fasting Week 2014

Fasting week for our church began Monday. I can’t do a full fast because I am breastfeeding. In the early mornings, I go on prayer walks with Catalina (who wakes me up at 5 something! Argh.) I hope I can sustain this. It has been wonderful but this morning I was tempted to go back to bed.

The kids are abstaining from IPads, computers, TV, sweets and junk food, too. Yesterday I asked the boys to write down their prayer requests. Tiana is still too little to participate but I was very blessed to read what my sons wrote down. Titus needed some help from me but Elijah and Edan came up with their own lists to pray about.

ELIJAH:

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EDAN:

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TITUS:

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MY OWN:

For Edric…

– To be discerning about priorities as God wants him to order them.
– To be an excellent TV host and public speaker who can use his talents and platform to further the gospel and attract people to Jesus.
– To be full of wisdom as he makes decisions for our family, work, ministry and business endeavors.
– To have the supernatural ability to manage all he has to with grace and temperance, being constantly filled with the Holy Spirit.
– To be blessed in his efforts to provide for our emotional, relational and physical needs as a family.
– To stay pure in heart and turn his eyes away from evil.
– To love God above all else.
– To live with passion for His work and kingdom.
– To be equipped and able as a leader to mentor the men in his discipleship group.
– To have understanding and wisdom beyond his years and life experiences so he can guide the men he leads and our family.
– To be protected against adultery and wrong kinds of partnerships and connections that will lead him to sin.
– To be healthy and strong all the days of his life.
– To always process experiences and events from a spiritual perspective.
– To honor and obey God in everything he does.
– To have God’s hand and favor upon him.
– To make time to invest in the lives of our kids and disciple them personally and intentionally.
– To be attracted to me forever and to grow old with me in the Lord, serving him and enjoying sweeter and sweeter years together!

For my kids…

– To grow up to love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength.
– To be easy to teach and to enjoy learning.
– To be healthy and strong.
– To be protected from demonic oppression and influences.
– To stay pure and guard their hearts from evil.
– To be full of wisdom and truth.
– To be discerning and make God-honoring choices.
– To be obedient and respectful.
– To have a love for God’s word and his statutes.
– To be influencers who make a difference for Christ.
– To be purposeful in their use of their time.
– To have favor with God and man.
– To have Christ-like character.
– To excel academically and be very responsive to my instruction when I am with them.
– To become independent learners equipped with the skills to gather information, process and comprehend, communicate and apply, and solve problems creatively and with understanding.
– To be handsome, beautiful and talented.

Househelp…

– To enjoy working for our family.
– To grow in the knowledge of the Lord and to love him.
– To be good stewards of the resources entrusted to them.
– To care for our children with diligence, patience, and kindness.
– To remain trustworthy in their areas of responsibility.
– To be joyful and spirit-filled, not giving in to moodiness, laziness, pride or ingratitude.
– To have God’s hand of protection upon them and their families.
– To be discerning about avoiding relationships with the wrong kinds of men who will take advantage of them.
– To receive God’s blessings for their hard work.

Personal…

– To be able to share God’s love and salvation through Christ to those he brings my way.
– To know how to present the gospel based on the heart-felt needs and longings of people.
– To be able to meet these needs with spiritual truth.
– To have daily resolve and energy to teach my kids and spend these precious years discipling their hearts and filling their minds with biblical truth.
– To be disciplined with my time so I am effective at using the hours to teach them.
– To be more organized and a better planner.
– To love God with all my heart.
– To be faithful to him until the end of my days and have my heart ready for eternity.
– To serve him and others with the gifts he has given me.
– To grow as a writer and have daily inspiration to write.
– To ably minister to the ladies that God has entrusted into my care.
– To be a Christ-filled wife and mother who is a blessing to my husband and children.
– To become physically fit and healthy this year by starting an exercise routine and making wise choices about what I eat.

If you have prayer requests, please email me. It would be a privilege for me to pray for you.

Correcting Children With Love

Titus, my third son, was reacting to having to eat Adobo for lunch a few days ago. It was reported to me that he had a bad attitude about his food so I had a talk with him. I took him aside, away from his brothers and sisters, and asked him, “Do you love Jesus? Is he in your heart?” He nodded but he didn’t want to look me in the eye.

In the gentlest voice possible, I encouraged him to tell me what went wrong. I wanted to find out, from his perspective, why he wasn’t happy about his lunch. He was hesitant at first but I told him, “You can tell mommy anything,” and I took his face in my hands to look into his eyes.

I know Titus. He can seem strong-willed and stubborn but he is a sweet son inside. I trust in the work of the Lord in his heart when he seems difficult to reach. But it is important that I approach him with kindness in my tone. If I bear down on him with irritation or badger him, demanding that he explain himself, he will withdraw from me all the more.

All my kids have different needs when it comes to training and discipleship but I have noticed that it is easier to influence them towards right attitudes and behavior when I do the following:

  1. Assure them that they are loved no matter what.
  2. Listen to their perspective without criticizing it.
  3. Ask them questions about their perspective and how they can change for the better…Ex. Is it right or wrong to have that kind of attitude? Is it right or wrong to treat others that way? This allows them to come to their own conclusions and convictions about sin.
  4. Communicate to them that I believe in the good work that Christ is doing in their lives and the positive change that will ensue because they love Jesus.
  5. Hug and kiss them.

Fifteen minutes later, Titus was with me in the kitchen, eating his Adobo with a smile on his face. All he asked for was a little more sauce to be put on it and he didn’t resist being told to eat it.

The key to this process of correcting wrong attitudes and behavior in my kids is Jesus. I cannot have these sorts of dialogues with my children if they don’t know Jesus and do not have a relationship with him. So as early as 3 years old, Edric and I share the gospel to them. And afterwards, we continue instructing their hearts so they grow spiritually.

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Although we are authoritative and set rules for our children, we aren’t tyrannical. We leave room for the Holy Spirit to operate and give our kids the opportunity to respond to him. When they don’t, then we know they don’t really have a personal relationship with Christ and we need to help them get to that point. Or they may claim to have one but they have to grow in the knowledge of him. It’s our responsibility to pass on this knowledge to them by encouraging them to read the Bible, having devotions as a family, praying for them and with them, and studying God’s word together.

When parents ask how Edric and I manage to parent 5 kids, we have nothing to boast about. It is the Lord’s work in the lives of our children. They have a personal relationship with him. This makes them receptive to instruction. We can only do what is within our control – love them, spend time with them, invest in their lives by being present during these tender years, model Christ-likeness and ask for forgiveness when we don’t. But, the grace to love God, to follow and obey him (and us) is ULTIMATELY the working of the Holy Spirit.DSC00797

Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. (Galatians 6:1 NASB)

 

 

Origami Design Inspirations

My eldest son, Elijah, is really into origami. Last year, he did a bunch of designs to sell at a bazaar. I was looking through my IPad photos and I came across inspirations we found online to make products that used origami designs. These weren’t made by Elijah but we used some of these as references for things he made. I decided to post these photos for those who like paper crafts. (None of these photos are owned by me) Enjoy!:

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Not According to What We Deserve

Last November, I was asked by a blogger friend, Jane Go of Sugargospice, to write an article for her site. I said yes. But when she told me the deadline for it was December 2, I was like oh dear, bad timing! Edric and I were helping out with a big parenting conference the weekend before the article was due.

However, I had given my word so I told Jane I would follow through. Plus, she was incredibly persistent in a sweet way! Right, Jane?! She wasn’t expecting a literary masterpiece anyway. All she needed was a fun and light entry on Christmas in our household. So I finished the write-up just in time and sent it to her.

About two weeks after I turned in my article she got in touch with me. She invited me and my family to join her and her other guest bloggers for dinner at Phoenix Court in The Bellevue Hotel, Alabang. Jane added that Mr. Ryan Chan, Corporate Director for Communications and Marketing had graciously offered to give us all an overnight stay with our families. Alabang was pretty out of town for us Manila peeps. What a treat! Edric and I were really excited!

Mr. Chan was incredibly generous. He gave our family two adjoining rooms, a suite on the 19th floor of the Tower Wing and we were received as Signature Club guests.

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The kids thought it was so fun to have to use a card key to access floors 19 to 21. Simple joys. A special lounge is dedicated to signature club guests with complimentary drinks and hor d’oeuvres provided in the evening. We didn’t have time to avail of those but we did enjoy breakfast there the next day. I can imagine how businessmen, businesswomen and VIPs would appreciate the exclusive perks that come with being a Signature Club guest. Checking out, for example, was done on the 21st floor and it was very efficient.

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As for the rooms we stayed in…wow! Rooms 1921 and 1922. The kids started squealing with delight when we entered! They threw themselves onto the king-sized beds and made exclamatory statements about how wonderful the rooms were.

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Besides the sophisticated and modern decor which one might expect from a hotel suite, I appreciated all the thoughtful details. There was a personally signed note left on the table and a token gift, two plates of fresh fruits with fat strawberries (which I ate. Yummo), and a bottle of wine for Edric and I to share. The staff were very attentive, too. They were very friendly and eager to make our stay comfortable.

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We left for dinner at Phoenix Court (which was amazing!) in a hurry and didn’t have time to tidy-up. So, what a pleasant surprise it was to come back to an impeccable room with a re-stocked supply of Acca Kappa bath and beauty products. The kids used up all the shower gel in the afternoon to make their bubble bath!

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I also appreciated the numerous bottles of complimentary water they provided. As a breastfeeding mom I drink a ton of water so this little item mattered alot. For signature club guests they actually provide complimentary (non-alcoholic) drinks all day.

The great service extended to other areas. When we went down to the Pastry Corner to sample their delicious baked goods, a woman who worked close to the front desk offered to escort us. I asked her for directions but instead of mouthing out instructions she kindly said she would walk us over to it. In fact, she even waited for us while we were chatting with some old friends we ran into. I didn’t realize she was still standing there until Edric and I finished conversing with our friends and she let us know that she would be going back to the lobby.

Edric also left one of his white long sleeve shirts in our hotel room. He called the hotel a few days after we had left and they informed him that it had been set aside for him to pick up. Whew, it belongs to his show sponsor so I’m glad he didn’t lose it!

My favorite part of the room we stayed in was the bed. I’m thinking of designing one similar to it for our new house. Even Catalina liked it.
She plopped her head on to the spread and stayed there for a while without screaming to be held.

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It was very comfortable. I don’t remember my dreams that night which means I had deeper sleep! Usually I have three or four weird dreams a night because I get awoken by Catalina so many times.

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She looks angry here…In fact, when I tickle her, she gets angry! ha ha ha, which makes me want to tickle her more!

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The lounge on the 21st floor offered panoramic views of the city. I liked the feel of this lounge — quiet, fewer guests, lots of natural light, scenic views, and very responsive staff. I preferred it to their Cafe D’Asie. The food was delicious at Cafe D’Asie but it took them a while to refill the buffet stations during lunch. I didn’t mind too much because I am not really a buffet kind of gal unless it is a breakfast buffet. A few tasty dishes to choose from and great service are more appealing a combination. That’s why I liked the 21st floor.

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The Continental Breakfast had a spread that was very limited but I liked the meal I ate. Their service was to be applauded. They responded to our requests immediately — eggs cooked in our preferred way. Mine had to be somewhere between soft and hard boiled. The kids wanted omelettes or scrambled eggs. And they also requested pancakes, which they got. The waiter kept asking us if we needed anything and if we were well served. I appreciated his proactive-ness.

My kids had such a great time they didn’t want to leave. Edan even cried! I couldn’t believe it! My seven year old had become attached to the Bellevue overnight! He felt so badly about leaving he even hid in a corner to sulk. It was very uncharacteristic of him so Edric talked with him afterwards to help him process his feelings and have the right attitude.

Edric told him two things — gratitude and hope. It’s okay to feel sad when something you like is taken away or you have to leave an experience behind. But you need to be grateful that you were given the opportunity to enjoy what you had in the first place. Furthermore, it is always good to hope that one day, Lord willing, you may be given the very thing that was taken away or something even better.

I want to apply Edric’s lesson to my own circumstance. I am so grateful that we were given the night’s stay at Bellevue and treated to three huge meals. (Unfortunately I gained weight. I know this because my pants are tighter. Ack.) It was also a privilege to interact with other writers whom we shared dinner with at Phoenix Court. Anton Diaz of Our Awesome Planet, Didi Tiu of CanDishhh Tales, Franny Ang of Frannywanny, Michelle Martinez of Mrs. Martinez’s Raves & Rants, Richie Zamora of The Pickiest Eater, Rowena Wendy Lei of Animetric’s World, and Sumi Go of The Purple Doll.

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Because I don’t attend a lot of events, I am not very in the know about the blogosphere. In fact, I’m not very useful as a food critic, entertainment junkie, world traveler, or tech expert. But I learned a lot from tips shared by seasoned bloggers who sat at the same table we did. Of course, I got to know Jane and her family better which was wonderful…

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Jane also handed me and her other guests amazing gifts from Glamour Box, My Pink Wasabi, Angus Beef Tapa from Jam Foods and Co, and a caviar cake from Grace Y. Oh, and she also delivered a chocolate cake from Aggy’s Cakes and Sweets to my room for my belated birthday. Edric loved this!
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I made the mistake of sharing it with our house help and he wasn’t able to have a second serving. This was disappointing for him but good for his health.

From Glamour Box…

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It is nice as a hydrating mist but I actually like it as a light body spray because it smells so delicate…

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This gave my skin a nice glow for New Year’s Eve…

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Tried this right away and it went on very smoothly. I get chapped lips so often this will come in very handy…

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I don’t wear a lot of lipstick but I wore this one for New Year’s Eve. It was bright and red (and I’m so glad it matched my skin tone which is on the yellow-side.)

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I have yet to try this but I’m looking forward to using it…

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I wish I had known about My Pink Wasabi gift boxes before Christmas. They are so creative. It would have been great to give these chocolates as gifts.

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The Tapa we got from Jam Foods and Co. was eaten Monday morning. Yum!

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Who would have thought a single, simple article written to keep a promise and be a blessing (in a very small way) could reap all of this?! I was overwhelmed by the goodness of the Lord through Jane, her sponsors and Mr. Ryan Chan. I wasn’t required to write about all of this, but this experience made me think about God’s nature and hope in who he is. When we walk with him, he delights to bless us. And he never blesses us according to what we deserve but according to who He is — above and beyond what we can ever hope or imagine! That’s the 2014 we have to look forward to if we follow him! Happy New Year!

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