Archives for April 2014

When It Rains Inside Your House

We spent the day moving boxes into our new home and everything was going great until there was a downpour outside. And then the downpour happened inside! The water started coming through the hanging chandelier in the entrance and out of the lights in the hallway on the second floor. It was like a waterfall from the top of our second floor ceiling to the ground floor below. I couldn’t believe it!

Thankfully, the architect assigned to our site (representing the contractor) was around to address the problem. Everyone else on his team was scrambling around looking lost and overwhelmed by the ridiculousness of the situation but eventually, they figured out what to do. Someone got up to the roof and found a piece of wood blocking the downspouts. (How the wood got stuck there in the first place is a mystery.) Others found containers to catch the water and throw it outside. The electrician borrowed my Iphone flashlight so he could go into the ceiling and spot the water’s point of entry.

When it rained this afternoon, the water began to pond and seep into the ceiling. Without any other outlet but the lights in the hallway, the water started to flow downwards. First it came down in trickles and then in a stream. It was almost beautiful seeing the water drop down two stories right in front of our main door. We have a lot of glass in our entry way so it was like a water feature! The only problem of course was this was happening inside. Had our four older children been with us, they would have been splashing around in the water and dancing for joy. My baby, Catalina, was with me and she was very fascinated by the spectacle.

Because it was such a crazy, unexpected disaster, I knew it wasn’t just a freak accident. This was a divine message for Edric and I. We went out onto the balcony and thanked God for reminding us that this world is not our home, and we should not love the things of this world.

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On a positive note, it was a blessing that this mess happened at the hour it did. First, the workers were still at the house to address the issue. Had it happened in the evening, when they had all gone home, we would have been in big trouble! Second, it was a good “test” shower before actual rainy season. We got to see how the house faired against lots of rain. Third, we hadn’t completely moved in yet so we weren’t put in physical jeopardy.

But the best reason of all was I believe God wanted us to share the gospel with the on-site architect. When I saw the water falling through the ceiling I wanted to freak out and blame someone, but God gave Edric and I the calmness to consider that there was a spiritual perspective to be had in all of this.

The architect was so apologetic and promised that his team would clear out the downspouts so it wouldn’t happen again. Of course, he also told us the ceiling and whatever else was affected would be rectified. At this juncture…when we are about to move in, the timing of this rectification is unfortunate, but in the grand scheme of eternity, the damage was “worth it.” Let me explain…

Ever since this architect came on board for the finishing stage of our housebuilding, I have been burdened for him to come to Christ. He is a very nice guy who has worked hard and well to manage the final phase of our house project. Two weeks ago, he told me he saw my feature on GMA, but we didn’t get to talk about it. I asked Edric if he could be the one to process the feature with him since it would be awkward for me to discuss something so personal with a man.

He wasn’t able to do so then because we were headed home but after the indoor downpour happened, it
was the perfect opportunity to tell him about Jesus. When he came up to me to apologize once again, I assured him, “This is a reminder that we should not love this world. This world is not our home, heaven is.” When Edric and I were in private, I was like, “Hon, you should share the gospel with him. This is the best time to do so!” Edric completely agreed and some moments later took the architect aside.

On the balcony, Edric introduced him to Jesus Christ and what it means to have a personal relationship with him. Given that the incident made people in the house consider how temporal the things of this world are, it was a great segue for Edric to get into the topic of eternity. Edric also referred to the Tanikala episode of 700 Club which the architect got to watch. At the end of their dialogue, Edric asked him if he wanted to pray with him to receive Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, and he said, “Yes! Gusto ko yan (I want that).”

I was so thrilled. I couldn’t help but take a photo of the two of them.

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Edric and I have been praying that God will use this house for his glory and his purposes, and that’s what happened today in the most unprecedented sort of way. This is HIS house, not ours.

Even if it meant getting rain inside our house, the ceiling being partially destroyed, our lights and chandelier possibly getting wrecked, and the floor warping because it flooded on the second floor, I was happy. Those things can be repaired and redone. But a soul…what is the price of soul?

God loves all of us so much. He wants to get our attention and make our hearts receptive to the gospel. If it means making rain fall inside a house in a disastrous way so that one person will come to know him, their soul is worth it!

Luke 15:10 “In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.”

I love you even with your braces and bangs.

Braces and bangs…what was I thinking?! I didn’t realize how awkward I would look. And I must admit that I struggle with vanity from time to time. The comedy of it all is I had to give so many talks these past two weeks. There were blog readers who came up to me wanting photos and I wanted to run away because I am vain!!! I didn’t want to smile and pose for the camera. I know…it’s silly.

After one of my seminars, Edric confronted me in a loving way and told me to get over it. He knew I was self conscious because I was hardly moving my upper lip. I looked like an unskilled ventriloquist. Part of the problem was my lips kept snagging on my braces.

It’s been a few weeks since I first got them. Thankfully, these are fast braces so I shouldn’t have to wear them for too long. In the meantime, while I am looking like a teenager with wrinkles, I am so glad Edric told me two mornings ago, “I love you even with your braces and bangs.”

He would prefer that I didn’t have either but at this stage, 13 years into marriage, we understand that physical appearances aren’t the most important aspect of a marriage. I am not saying it’s not necessary to be attracted to your spouse and to do your best to be attractive for your spouse. But it’s certainly wonderful to know that braces and bangs aren’t going to change the way Edric feels about me. I don’t have to look perfect. I am not pressured to be flawless.

At the recent wedding of my cousin, Joseph, the officiating pastor, Jay Jackson, said, “Because love sees more it is willing to see less.”

He certainly meant more than just the physical but since I am on the topic of external appearances, permit me to say how much I appreciate a couple of things about my husband…

I am so thankful I married a guy who doesn’t compare me to the attractive women he meets. (He interviewed three gorgeous beauty queens for his TV show a few weeks ago.) I am so thankful that he doesn’t entertain attractive stalker women online. (Some women don’t care that he is a married man. They still attempt to get his attention and flirt with him.) I am so thankful he doesn’t ogle at bill boards of younger women or look up pornography. He admits that he is tempted to just like any other man, but he tries his best to guard what he sees.

Why? Because he loves God. He wants to please Him. If Edric didn’t have an intimate relationship with the Lord, I wouldn’t have the same sort of peace that I do about our marriage. But because he does it affords me rest from trying to KEEP him attracted to me. I try to stay fit and take care of myself so I don’t fall apart physically. However, no amount of striving in this area would make him faithful to me unless he desired to live for God.

I have seen the same conviction in my father who has stayed faithful to my mother. The other day I was showing my dad old photos of him and my mom. And he began to have tears in his eyes. My dad hardly gets emotional! But he went through each photo with me, commenting on how beautiful my mom looked. Afterwards he asked me to send the photos to him. As he made his way up the stairs to his study room, he glanced back at me with an expression of tender affection and added, “It is good for a husband to look through old photos and remember how much he loves the wife of his youth…” He seemed to be lost in a moment of sweet remembering as he smiled and climbed the remainder of the stairs.

When he said “wife of your youth,” I remembered this passage in Proverbs…Drink water from your own well— share your love only with your wife. Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you. Rejoice in the wife of your youth. (Proverbs 5:15, 18 NLT)

A man marries the woman he loves but a man who loves God keeps loving the woman he married.

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Home-made Birthday Parties Are the Best!

My niece celebrated her 4th birthday the other day. And my sister in law’s love for color was everywhere! What fun…homemade parties are so much more creative. I don’t know why people spend so much money for birthday parties when you can do it yourself for a fraction of the cost and kids will still have fun.

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Confessions of An Imperfect Mother

I lost it with my kids yesterday. We were looking through homeschool math kits and materials and I found out that Titus, Tiana and one of their cousins had gotten into them. Parts were misplaced and items were incomplete. Everything was jumbled together and carelessly thrown into one box.

My mistake was I took the box and intentionally dumped it on the floor in front of the children. It crashed in a loud way, pieces scattering in all directions.

Titus started to cry. The others were in shock. This was the first time they saw me react this way. My cortisol levels walked out of the room.

I was so frustrated because of the irresponsibility and lack of stewardship. When we bought these things I clearly told my kids to take care of them. They agreed to do so.

After sorting and tallying, a letter “y” was missing from the lower case letters of a kindergarten assessment kit; a test tube, three test tube covers, tweezers, and a magnifying glass were missing from a pre-school science kit; and the bear counters, as well as the colored and different-sized rubber bands weren’t in their box.

It may not seem like a huge deal but these are homeschooling materials I need for teaching. They aren’t easy to replace. Still…sigh…throwing the box was uncalled for. It was such a bad example to my kids. I knew it too but I struggled with thoughts like, if I don’t get mad how will my kids learn that this sort of irresponsibility is not acceptable? How will they take me seriously if I am always so patient and forgiving?

These were ridiculous thoughts but I entertained them for a bit after I left the room. I went downstairs to grab some ziploc bags so the mess could be sorted.

Everyone was quiet when I came back into the room. I placed Catalina on the floor and sat beside them. They kept making side glances at me, expecting an apology. At first I tried to explain what made me irate.

I went on and on about stewardship and what it means to take care of what God has given us. Bad timing. Of course nothing was sinking in because my kids had not recovered from my outburst of anger.

Over lunch, I gathered them around me. “Mommy needs to talk to all of you. Mommy was angry because you were not good stewards but it was wrong of me to throw the box on the floor. I was very wrong. Will you forgive me? I was a bad example. I am so sorry.”

They nodded their heads. Titus and Tiana started to smile. But my older boys needed more time. They were still dealing with the emotional and spiritual pain I had caused them. I let them speak up and express their feelings. They teared up, especially Elijah.

“You have never done that before, mom.” His voice cracked as he tried to stay in control of his emotions. He also added, “My throat is sore from crying. I was crying while I was going around the house looking for all the things you asked us to.” (I made a list of missing items for them to find.) I hugged him and asked for forgiveness again.

At that point I felt so wretched, and I felt like a total hypocrite. Last weekend I gave a parenting talk with Edric and I boldly stated, “Our responses to our children should be redemptive, they should lead them to Christ, not away from him.”

Ayayay. Choke. Gag me. I had done just the opposite!

I spent time with the kids in the afternoon and they livened up to their usual selves. They even said, “W are okay now, mom.” But there was definitely regret on my part. I really wish I had controlled myself and not chucked the box on the floor.

God reminded me that I am an imperfect, sinful mother who needs to depend on his grace daily to love my children to Christ. The moment when I think I am most OKAY, like I am in control and cruising along, is the moment when I am most vulnerable to the sins of pride, anger, impatience, criticism and judgementalism.

During Holy Week Edric and I were busy serving God. We did two parenting seminars. Edric also spoke thrice on Sunday and I shared along side him. And my 700 Club testimony was featured on TV.

Encouragement and praise flooded my inbox and without realizing it, I was eating it all up and reveling in it, thinking that I had done something of worth for the Lord. I was “resting on my spiritual laurels.” But my outburst was a very humbling reminder that whenever I do anything of worth ALL CREDIT goes to God. There is nothing good in me apart from him. It’s not about what I do for God or what I accomplish. It’s about who he is and what he has done. The instant I start patting myself on the back and stealing even a smidgen of God’s glory, I will fall and fail like I did yesterday.

This post is a confession before God and to Him that my heart was deceived. I equated spiritual success with the doings of a person. But the muchness of service can often belie the true disposition of the heart and its devotion. What is more important is the being — the unmasked self, the exposed motives that are hidden to others but seen by God.

Why do I do what I do for His kingdom?

Is it for him or is it really for me? Is it because I really love Christ and others or is it because I love myself? Is it because I want him to get all the glory or do I want some of it? Is it an offering of worship to a God who is worthy of my praise and my best or is it obligatory preoccupation with the doings of Christianity?

God is not more pleased with displays of service as he is with the heart of the one who serves with gratitude, joy, love and truthful worship. As his word says, But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. (John 4:23 NLT)

In everything I do, whether it be as a wife, mother, homeschooler, writer, and servant of God, I must have the same perspective that John had in reference to Christ. May the perfect Jesus always increase in this imperfect me…

He must increase, but I must decrease. “He who comes from above is above all, he who is of the earth is from the earth and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all. (John 3:30, 31 NASB)

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The Triumvirate of Unconditional Love

Let me begin by saying it’s absolutely impossible to survive a marriage without forgiveness. It is one of the three triplets that define unconditional love, especially in marriage — forgiveness, grace and hope. Every single day that a person is married, at least one of these (if not all) are put to the test. Without this triumvirate a marriage cannot grow in intimacy and it will certainly not overcome what threatens to break it apart. Whether it be daily annoyances, personality clashes, unmet expectations or longings, lack of priorities, or betrayal, a marital relationship is constantly under attack. It is the game plan of the evil one to break it apart and destroy the people who are in and around it — the couple, the children, the family. And naturally, when more and more families fall, society will follow.

So a marriage must be treated as sacred, and those who commit to it must understand that saying yes to one another, before God, is for better or for worse.

John Piper wrote an amazing book called “This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence.” He says that marriage is the doing of God and it is the display of God. Marriage between a man and a woman was designed from the beginning to be a reflection of the relationship between Jesus Christ and us. In Ephesians, Paul says, “A man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” And then the passage goes on to say, “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:31-32)

I used to wonder why the Bible says that there is no marriage in heaven. This question was answered when I read Piper’s book. Marriage is a mirror of the relationship between Jesus Christ (the husband) and his church (his bride). “For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word…”(Ephesians 5:23-26 NASB)

In heaven, there is no need for a marriage to display this relationship. But on earth, what a privilege we have to show the world how much God loves us! Christ will never leave his church, his bride, just as a man ought never to leave his wife. And the church is to be faithful and subject to Christ, as a wife ought to be to her husband.

The problem is marriage is between two imperfect people. Unlike Christ to us, we do not always love one another as he loves us. But we have a reference for the kind of love that ought to be shared by a husband and wife because of Christ’s example. There has to be forgiveness, grace and hope.

Last week Edric and I got into a serious fight. It wasn’t one of those silly ones that have to do with personality quirks or toothpaste tubes left uncovered in the bathroom. I brought up a concern about Family Ministry and his involvement in it, and he was very discouraged by the things I said. He called me Ms. Gloom and Doom for being negative and corrective about the way he was running it. I didn’t relent. My mistake was I kept pursuing the discussion, intentionally pulverizing him with my frustrations. And I knew I was being disrespectful but I didn’t care. I just wanted him to acknowledge what I was saying and validate my perspective. But he reacted with anger (not shouting but he didn’t like what I had to say at all), and he withdrew and avoided me because he was deeply hurt. So I pulled away, too.

When I apologized for my disrespect, I made the mistake of bringing up the same topic again. And it came to a point where he actually said that he didn’t want to come home if he was going to come home to a complaining, nagging wife who had no confidence in him.

In my mind I wasn’t being a nag and I wasn’t communicating that he wasn’t capable of heading the ministry. I was merely expressing a concern. But for guys, well, my husband atleast, when he responds with a statement like, “I will take care of it,” that means he’s going to take action and I need not badger him repeatedly to make sure. That was my problem. I didn’t stop talking. Even after Edric said he would take care of it, I kept going and going.

It took two and a half days before we resolved our conflict. (This is long for us.) And it was a pretty emotional discussion. We went back and forth deliberating and articulating our deep frustrations towards one another until I just broke down and he did, too. We sat in the kitchen in tears.

Neither of us wanted to be fighting. We loved each other. But there was a lot of garbage being shoveled on top of that love. All we began to see and smell was the stink.

As we humbled ourselves and acknowledged our wrongs, we applied forgiveness, grace and hope. We accepted one another’s apology without thinking, “Well, you are just going to do this again” — FORGIVENESS. And we made ourselves vulnerable by choosing to love one another still — GRACE. Afterwards, we talked about what to improve on and we were comforted by Christ’s work in each of us — HOPE.

Years ago Edric and I attended a marriage retreat where we learned about the stages of marriage — romantic, reality, reaction, retaliation, retreat, resignation, and rebuilding. Romantic is like the honey moon stage, when you are both starry-eyed, blissful, and totally clueless about how different you are from one another. Reality is the day you wake up and realize that your husband doesn’t put the toilet seat down after using it, and your husband realizes you spend 3 hours in the bathroom (I hope none of us wives really do this!) As the idiosyncrasies, attitudes and behaviors begin to bug and irritate you, you begin to react, and then conflict arises. Retaliation happens. If the conflicts remain unresolved and there is no attempt to change, then you both begin to withdraw. This is the retreat stage. When neither of you want to fix the marriage and feel a kind of hopelessness about it, this is resignation. If you can’t get past this stage, you may separate or divorce. Another possibility is you will live together but have absolutely no relationship. The good news is, in Christ, a marriage can be rebuilt. It can keep on being rebuilt.

Edric and I have experienced these stages over and over again. As much as possible, we don’t linger in the retreat stage too long, and we skip on to the rebuilding stage soon after a conflict. In order to do this, forgiveness, grace and hope are necessary. But these would be impossible to apply if God wasn’t present in our marriage.

Both of us need a reference for unconditional love that is outside of ourselves. Our human capacity to forgive, dispense grace, and hope is limited by who we are – sinful, fallen people. Honestly, I don’t always like to forgive. Most of the time it’s not the big offenses that are hard to deal with, it’s the repeated ones that are wearying. When Edric gets irritated or loses his cool, I feel very hurt. And it makes me angry when he has a problem calibrating his emotions. I praise God that his “flare-ups” have become more infrequent over the years. He tries his best to be cool, calm, and collected, as well as mindful of his tone. But, on occasion, when he gets busy or overexerts himself to the point of exhaustion, he is more vulnerable to spikes in his temperament. When this happens, I want to react and fight back, or at least correct him. My first instinct is not to forgive. I don’t feel like it. It’s not easy for Edric to keep forgiving me for my shortcomings either. But he said something really sweet to me that nearly brought me to tears. “Hon, from the moment of the offense, I forgive you.” In other words, as soon as I display a behavior, attitude or speak words that hurt him, he already chooses to forgive.

“Why?” I asked.

“Christ’s love compels me to,” was his answer.

We choose to forgive because God has forgiven us through his son, Jesus. And we know that forgiveness is the starting point. It’s like the antivenin that removes emotional toxins that poison our love for one another.

The Bible says, “See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled…” Hebrews 12:15

Recently I heard an amazing story of a couple who wanted to quit on one another. One of the spouses had kept a second family and lived a secret life. It was an offense that any normal person would struggle to forgive. For a while, it seemed like this couple was at the resignation stage. The marriage seemed impossible to fix. As a last effort, they attended a retreat where they learned about Jesus Christ and his forgiveness. The grieving spouse made a decision to forgive because of Christ’s forgiveness. Together they committed to rebuild the relationship, an act of grace. And miraculously, their marriage bounced back to the romantic stage as they were able to unearth issues, and unmet longings and expectations. Hope was restored.

Even though stories like this one may seem uncommon in a world where marriages fall apart because of infidelity and betrayal, it is a common occurrence for couples who choose to make Jesus Christ Lord of their lives and marriages. Jesus Christ doesn’t just save people. He saves marriages.

I love Edric. I want to love him always. But marriage is not an easy relationship. We will continue to disappoint one another because we are flawed people. We will continue to go through the stages of marriage. However, the great news is we can keep returning to the romantic stage. For as long as we apply the same unconditional love that Jesus Christ affords us there will always be forgiveness, grace and hope in our marriage.

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He Pulled Off A Mannequin Hand Again

Titus’ mechanical ability is escalating in power, kind of like Elsa’s freezing ability grew stronger in the movie, Frozen. Almost everyday he will dismantle something. Today it was the hand of a mannequin at a souvenir shop in Puerto Princesa. He looked up at Edric from under a table holding half the arm of a mannequin.

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When he does things like this and I ask him why, his usual response is, “I want to see how it works,” or “I want to see what is inside.”

As a mom I don’t want to punish his desire to learn or quell his curiosity. So my challenge is to keep him productively busy. Here are some ideas that have worked:

Sand. (Explore Sandbox sent me a kit with sand in it. It’s a very soft sand that doesn’t get stuck under my children’s nails.) Titus has asked to play with this almost daily since he got it.

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Clay or play dough. I prefer play dough because it feels nicer and smells better, but whenever the kids leave it out it hardens. Plus it’s more expensive. Clay, on the other hand, is so reasonable and it will stay mailable for a long while even if it is uncovered.

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Mining Kits or Digging for Treasure Kits (available at Toy Kingdom or Toys R Us)

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Paper folding. Elijah, my eldest, was the first to get into origami. But his brothers are interested in it too. They learn from Elijah and invent their own folds as well. One of their favorite things to fold is paper airplanes. Titus can spend a long time making planes and throwing them off the balcony.

A bicycle. Edric needs to replace Titus’ old one which we sold at a recent garage sale. When we move to our new house he will get one. In the meantime, he has been pretty content peddling around on his cousins’ bike.

A pet. When my mom had a kitten, Titus would play with it as often as he could. As a child, I had all kinds of pets, too. Most of the day I was outdoors with my monkey and dogs. I learned how to be a responsible pet owner. When Titus is a little older he will be ready to have a pet, too.

Scratch art. I used to order these from the US. But they have something similar that is available at National Bookstore. Kids take a scratch pen and use the friction to reveal colors under the black paper.

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Art supplies like paint, glue, scissors, hole punchers, staplers, tape. Titus spends hours drawing and making works of art. I often have to replace the art supplies in our home but I don’t mind. If my kids are inspired to create it’s worth it! I am so glad Art Attack sells products at National Bookstore, too!

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Cooking and baking. My kids enjoy cooking and baking. They had a couple of sessions at the Cookery Place in Fort which they thoroughly enjoyed. But when they are interested, I let them cook and bake with me. Titus especially likes making sugar cookies because he can cut out the dough and decorate with icing.

Old boxes, sticks, rocks, coins, marbles, plastic cups, leaves, toilet paper tubes, paper, string, and even dirt! When a child’s time is not cannibalized by gadgets, computers and television, they can make anything into a toy or source of entertainment. The other day, Titus brought me a plastic cup with flowers, rocks and leaves in it. It was a beautiful arrangement that he put together himself. My kids enjoy hanging out at our construction site playing in the dirt. (But I am one of those moms who is okay with dirt.)

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Making tents or forts. On certain days the kids take blankets, sheets and pillows and make tents or forts in their room. Even if it makes a big mess, I am all for it. I used to do this when I was a kid.

Dress up. Girls aren’t the only ones who like dressing up and role playing. My boys like it too. They have a container with wigs, clothes, swords, and other items they can use for costumes. They have put on “plays” and performances for us several times.

Swimming. I don’t know any kid who doesn’t like to swim. Over the past two months we have been to several beaches and visited a number of pools. They can spend all day swimming if we let them.

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Playgrounds and open space. Kids, especially boys, need to expend their energy. When we aren’t traveling, we encourage our children to walk to the park and exercise almost daily. It helps that their cousins are nearby so they usually go together. By the time they come home they are ready to eat, too!

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Science experiments. I let Titus participate in our human anatomy experiments even if this isn’t a required subject for him.

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Exploring with a flashlight. I got the kids color coded flashlights for their Christmas stockings. We don’t always take walks at night, but when we do, they can bring their flashlights with them and look for night creatures.

“Mix-mix.” Sometimes, I hand Titus and Tiana a simple mixing bowl with a variety of items on hand, like a cup of flour, water, sugar, soy sauce, etc. I let them mix everything together, using measuring spoons and cups, and a wooden spoon as their mixer and they have a blast.

Sports. Currently, Titus is enrolled in a Muai Thai class with his older brothers. It was Edric’s idea to get the boys into a martial arts class so they can protect one another and their sisters. I especially agree with the latter.

Learn a musical instrument. Following in the footsteps of Elijah and Edan, Titus is learning violin. We have violins for every age so we just pass them down as our kids grow to save money. He used to tinker with their violins but now he can have one of his own and put it to good use.

Young children, especially the wiggly ones like Titus benefit from activities that encourage productive play and hands-on learning. Otherwise, they get their hands into everything, even things you would rather they avoid! So they need opportunities to learn, build, create, explore, and invent in order to channel their energy and intelligence in positive ways. As a general rule, with Titus, what works is providing an environment that allows freedom within boundaries.

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Brattiness Is Not Allowed

My daughter, Tiana, likes to have her hair braided. She calls it “curly hair” because after the braids are removed, her hair looks curly. Her “ate” or yaya helps fix her hair. But her ate didn’t braid her hair this morning because we were in a hurry to leave our hotel to get to the underwater river tour in Puerto Princesa.

Tiana whined about it while sitting on the bed. “I want curly,” she insisted with a bratty tone. Of course I didn’t let her get away with this sort of attitude. When we were in the car, I told her to apologize to her yaya and ask for forgiveness. I also told her to hug her.

I am very sensitive to the way my kids talk to and treat our househelp. For the most part they are kind to them, especially my older kids. They know how much we value the hard work of the girls that are in our home. But sometimes Tiana can be demanding even if she is a sweetie. Whenever she treats them disrespectfully, I don’t allow it. It isn’t right. I want her to hold those who serve us in high regard. Furthermore, I want to avoid raising a daughter with an entitlement mentality…someone who expects royal treatment. Noooo way!

Tiana went up to her yaya like I asked her to and asked for forgiveness. “I am sorry, ate,” she said. She also gave her a big, sincere hug. Her yaya is super sweet and hugged her back.

As much as I love my kids, I will not defend their bad behavior. When they do something inappropriate to a person, no matter who it is, I have to deal with it. It’s my job to train them to respect all kinds of people. Of course I have to model it, too.

Tiana didn’t get to have her curly hair today but she did just fine without it, especially when she knew that brattiness is not allowed!

Having girls is a joy but I always have to remember that raising two princesses isn’t about letting them have a princess-mentality!

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HOPE

Sunday morning I was invited to speak at CRIBS, a center for abused women. When I was praying about what to share, God impressed upon my heart to talk about hope…

It’s easy to lose hope when you go through sexual abuse, molestation, incest, or rape. I know the feeling of losing hope — hope for the future, hope for acceptance, hope for security and protection, hope that you can ever be whole and undamaged again.

When I was raped at fifteen, I felt like something was stolen from me, something that no one could ever give back.

But then I remembered verses like Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope.”

So I made up my mind. I chose to believe that God was good, that he still had a plan for my life. I clung to the promise in Romans 8:28 which says, “But God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love him.”

What good could ever come out of rape? I didn’t know how God would redeem this tragedy, but I made a personal choice not to allow tragedy to define or determine who I would become.

When I was speaking to the ladies at CRIBS, I told them, “God is not like the men who hurt you or who hurt me. Some of you may have been abused and betrayed by the men in your life who are supposed to take care of you and protect you — fathers, uncles, maybe even cousins, and brothers. But God is not like these men.

God is a loving, caring Father who is mindful of us. I have five children. They are all special to me. And I don’t think there will ever be a time when I will forget any of them. But here is what God says about himself:

“Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.” Isaiah 49:15

What a tender description of God’s love for us! He doesn’t forget any of us, no matter what we have been through.

God loves us so much, He gave us His own son, Jesus Christ to die for us. Jesus was abused for our sake. He was mocked and humiliated, abandoned by those who were closest to him. He endured all this so that his death could bring us eternal life.

John 3:16 tells us, “For God so loved the world he gave us his only begotten son so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Why? Why would the God of the universe do this? GOD LOVES US SO MUCH HE WANTS TO HEAL MORE THAN OUR PHYSICAL PROBLEMS. HE WANTS TO HEAL OUR BIGGER PROBLEM — OUR SPIRITUAL PROBLEM.

Those of us who have gone through sexual assault had our physical bodies hurt and damaged. But there is a greater and more serious wrong that we have to come to terms with. Before God, we are ALL sinners.

Romans 3:9 -11 “What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written, ‘There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God.’”

What is our spiritual problem? Sin. We are separated from God. Our orientation is away from God.

Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

In the past I used to think that the men who raped me were the evil ones. Yes, they were wrong and what they did was horrible. But God reminded me that I am also a sinner. I may not hurt people the same way those men hurt me. However, I stand just as guilty before God. I too fall short of his righteousness. And because He forgave me then I should do the same to the men who violated me.

The entire world groans under the weight of sin. That’s why people assault, pillage, plunder and kill. That was never God’s plan. God made a beautiful world where people were supposed to be in harmony with Him, with one another, with creation. Relationships were intended to provide security and unconditional love.

After I was raped, a kind of skepticism and distrustful point of view grew in me. I often interpreted the affections of men as malicious and perverse. The sins committed against me altered my natural inclination to trust in people.

This is what sin does. It destroys, corrupts, and disrupts God’s good design. And the consequences of sin — heartache, hardships, problems, pain, and multiplied sorrows — these are the enemies of hope.

But Jesus gave his life, to restore and heal what sin took away, to give us hope. What is the hope we have in Jesus?

1. THE HOPE OF ETERNAL LIFE

“For the wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23

“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 5:13

The verse says “so that you may know.” It is a certainty, not a false promise.

Having the hope of eternal life comforted me greatly the night of the rape. I thought, “Lord they may be able to touch my body, but they cannot touch my spirit. My real life is hidden in you.”

No matter what happens to our physical bodies, we can look forward to heaven where the book of Revelations tells us, “every tear shall be wiped away.”

2. THE HOPE OF PEACE

In John 16:33 Jesus said, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

The reality is we live in a world that is broken, fallen. While we cannot change this (at least not until Christ comes again), we can still have the peace he offers. If Jesus is present in our lives, we do not have to be afraid, to worry or doubt that he will take care of us when trials and difficulties come. He gives us the assurance that he has already overcome the world.

3. THE HOPE OF A NEW BEGINNING

“For if anyone is in Christ he is new creation. The old has passed away, behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

I felt soiled and dirty after I was raped, but this verse reminded me that in Christ all things can be new again. I wanted new memories. I wanted to move on and move past what happened to me. Even if I was victimized, I didn’t want to live like a victim.

Today I am happily married and blessed with five children. I have the privilege of serving the Lord along-side my husband, Edric. Together we are enjoying the adventures of parenting and homeschooling our children. The dark memories of that night have been replaced by beautiful, delightful ones that speak of the wonders and faithfulness of God in my life and in my family’s.

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The Lord is a redeemer. He isn’t like the people or problems that steal and take away what is precious to us. He is a GIVER. He wants to GIVE us hope for the future — eternal life, hope for today — peace, and hope for our past — a new beginning.

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Years ago I gave my life to Jesus. He is the only reason why I was able to come away from this tragedy with hope and forgive the men who raped me. Will you let God redeem your life, too, so you can experience the hope that he has promised through his son, Jesus?

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Sweet Beedie Dies

What a sad morning.

Beedie, one of Edan’s cockatiels, died at about 10 AM. We were all pretty devastated. But Edan was especially despondent. When I pulled Beedie out of the cage and showed Edan his lifeless body, he walked away, up the stairs to be alone and cry.

I cried, too.

Beedie was the sweetest bird. And my heart ached for Edan.

Edan’s a pretty dutiful boy. He had a routine with his two cockatiels. Every morning he would change the water, feed them, and spend time playing with them. Beedie was his favorite because he was very good-natured. Whenever Edan would extend his fingers to him, Beedie would willingly climb on and chirp a happy tune.

I wish I hadn’t been the last to see him alive. He wasn’t doing too well early this morning. My dad used to breed cockatiels and parakeets so I knew that Beedie had all the symptoms of a sick bird. His head was bowed down, his eyes were closed and he refused to eat or drink anything. I didn’t expect him to survive for very much longer. But it was still hard to see him keeled over, his claws curled under him, with one eye shut and the other half open. He wasn’t breathing anymore. Geedie (Edan’s other cockatiel) looked on in a lonely sort of way.

Although I’m not entirely sure of what made him sick, I have a theory.  About two weeks ago I told Edan to quick tossing his cockatiels up into the air to make them fly. They came from the pet shop with their wings clipped so they couldn’t fly very far at all. Edan thought he was “helping them” learn how to fly. But I kept telling him that birds instinctively know how to fly. My fear was he was stressing them out by forcing them to fly when they obviously couldn’t because their wings were clipped.

Well, he forgot that I had told him this. A few days ago, Edan experimented with flying lessons again and Beedie accidentally dove into the pond in the garden because he couldn’t flap his wings very well. Edan freaked out and called Elijah who ran over to rescue Beedie. When the kids reported to me what happened, I reminded Edan that he wasn’t supposed to throw the birds up into the air. I also expressed concern that Beedie might get sick.

I know birds bathe in water but this was dirty pond water. And I’m pretty sure Beedie gulped in some of it. His feces were loose and the wrong color before he died.

Birds are really sensitive. And once they get sick, it’s not very likely that they will recover.

As a mom, I really wanted to spare Edan from experiencing the loss of his bird. But I couldn’t. I even prayed that he would live. But God didn’t let that happen.

To empathize with Edan, I held him for a while as we both cried about Beedie. We looked at the picture on my phone when we got him from the pet store and that made us cry even more.

This afternoon, I tried, in a very gentle way to ask Edan if he learned anything from this unfortunate experience…especially in the area of obedience. At the time he was hanging out with his cousins and his reply was, “Yes mom, but I don’t want to talk about it in front of my cousins.”

When it was just the two of us, I asked him again and he admitted to me that he should have obeyed and taken better care of Beedie, specifically, he should have NOT thrown him into the air to fly or twirled him around. As he went out the door of the study room, he also added, “The punishment of sin is death.” I actually laughed when he said this because I didn’t expect such an insightful comment from him. We both smiled at one another.

Obedience is a principle that my children will have to keep on learning as they grow up. The first command we teach our children is to obey. When our kids are younger, we emphasize it a lot. We even spank for disobedience. But as they get older, we don’t force them to obey. By about 6 or 7, they usually get obedience, and they understand why it is important. The next stage of their instruction when it comes to obeying is developing a conviction for it.

We want them to connect obedience with blessing. And when they don’t obey it’s beneficial for them to experience the consequences of their choices, even if hurts to watch this happen as a parent. My parents taught my siblings and I, “you are free to choose but not free to escape the consequences of your choices.”

As an 8 year old, Edan experienced a life lesson I hope he will not forget. It was painful for him to loose Beedie. But it would be more painful for him in the future if he didn’t internalize obedience this early on.

He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” John 3:36

For homeschooling today, I asked Edan to write a tribute to Beedie so he can remember him…

Beedie was my Cocktail and he died today. We had him for 18 days. He was a kind bird. I loved him so much…. He was also loving, and happy. He was my pet. Everyday we would play together. I would clean his cage every day. He was a child bird, not yet an adult. In the morning he would call out for me.

But today he was very sick. When I checked on him, he was weak and he wouldn’t eat or drink. A few hours later he died. I felt sad. I will miss him very much. I had lots of fun with him. He was my favourite pet….

_____

WAAAAHHH (THAT’S ME…) 

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Real Wealth

We checked on the status of our house a few days ago. It was exciting to see all the bedroom furniture being assembled in the rooms. Once the bedrooms are done, we can move in even if the rest of the house isn’t completely finished yet. Well, that’s the plan. Edric’s plan. Most people have said this is the best way to move things along when you are in the finishing stages.

When we were at the site, the kids ran up the stairs to look into the rooms, eager to see their personal spaces taking form. In the boy’s room, we assigned areas.

“Elijah this will be your bed, Edan this is yours and Titus this is for you.”

The boys started cheering and Titus pointed to the floor and asked, “On the floor?” There was no disappointment in his tone. He identified a spot in between two beds and waited for me to confirm it.

I took his face in my hands and said, “Oh no honey, you will have your own bed!” And I started to tear. It probably sounds silly that I did. But if you know Titus, how candid and unpretentious he can be, then my reaction would make sense. He has never complained about sleeping on a mat, on the floor. For him this has been the manner of his place as the youngest son. He didn’t have a “real” bed because there was no room for one in our condo. But at that moment I was showing him a new bed frame and he didn’t see it. He just assumed he would be getting the floor as always.

When I corrected him, he was like, “Really? Yeah! I will have my own bed!”

And he went on to say, “You know,
Mom, I never liked sleeping on the floor…”

I went to the bathroom and composed myself because I was VERY teary-eyed by then. Edric saw me and took me in his arms. Both of us stood there in gratefulness and amazement for the house that God has given to us. It’s a big upgrade for our entire family. Previously, we lived in 137 square meters shared between 9 people (our family and two househelps).

That is still larger than 90% of what the world’s population probably lives in. So I am not saying that we had a bad deal. But I grew up in a large house and when I got married, our first home — a one bedroom condo — was relatively small.

God taught me through the years to look forward to his provision and not to worry about when it would come. Besides, I didn’t need our first home to be larger. I had to do all the cleaning so I was okay with small! More importantly, Edric was in it and that’s what mattered to me. There was love, joy, and peace…things that expanded infinitely beyond the four walls of our home.

We had friends who started off with generously sized houses when they were newly married. That was not our beginning. We did not have much, financially speaking, so our initial home was simple. In fact, when we had our eldest, Elijah, he didn’t even have a crib for a while. He slept on a mattress on the floor. When I needed to feed him at night, I would go down to the floor and sleep beside him.

It’s amazing that he didn’t crawl off! The floor was carpeted so he wasn’t in danger of hitting himself. I think we put all kinds of pillows around him to keep him safe. Well…I probably would’ve been chided by sleep safe advocates, but back then, it was our best option.

God increased the size of our home as children were added. When Edan was born, we moved to a three bedroom condo. It suited us just fine until our fifth, Catalina, came along. Thankfully, by then, we were building our house.

In September 2013, we said goodbye to our condo and had it renovated shortly after. We had most of our belongings boxed up and stored in a warehouse. In the interim we stayed at my parents, and Edric’s for a bit, too. (We are still in this nomadic state until our final move.)

Our most recent home with hardly anything left in it…

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After we finished renovating the condo, I felt conflicted. On the one hand, I was excited that we had moved out and moved on. But on the other hand, we spent 8 years in that place. It was hard for me to say goodbye. Even if it was emptied out, retouched and repainted, I still had visions of our children in the rooms, playing, laughing, growing up.

I will miss every inch of that three bedroom condo. It was cozy. It had the smells and sounds of us.

When Titus made the comment about the floor, I thought of how
God has been our faithful provider. I know others may get their house and lot dreams fulfilled much earlier. And maybe others are still waiting on theirs, but for us this is neither too early or too late.

If it had happened sooner we wouldn’t have been ready. Edric and I needed to learn simplicity, humility, gratitude, and so did our children. We are still learning these virtues. But had we skipped to the house and lot bit of our history without going through condo living and tighter spaces, we might have become casualties of too much comfort. It’s always easier to upgrade than to downgrade, to upsize than to downsize.

I like our Heavenly Father’s manner of blessing, too. He is and always will be the source of infinite resources and abundance, but he tempers and minds the valve that releases these to his children. Material things have a way of replacing our spiritual hunger for the eternal. And, there is nothing more impoverishing to the human soul than to be stuffed full of prosperity and thereby emptied of the want for God.

Edric used to tell me that this passage was one of his favorites. “O God, I beg two favors from you; let me have them before I die. First, help me never to tell a lie. Second, give me neither poverty nor riches! Give me just enough to satisfy my needs. For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say, “Who is the Lord ?” And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God’s holy name. (Proverbs 30:7-9 NLT)

I have to admit that when he told me this was one of his “prayers” I thought, “Oh great, that’s it. We are never going to be rich.” But my mindset was all wrong. I was thinking that money would bring me security and happiness. It’s not that I wanted loads of it to spend on myself. I just wanted to know we had it, that we didn’t have to worry about where it would come from.

Well, God allowed Edric and I to begin simply to teach me not to anchor my faith on money but on Him. When I learned to live with less — less money, less space, less possessions — I found that I always had more than enough to be happy and thankful for. I like what English clergyman and writer Thomas Fuller said, “Riches enlarge rather than satisfy appetites.”

I am not saying that I have graduated from contentment. Not at all! This is a lesson that needs to be learned and re-learned depending on the circumstances that test it. Neither am I saying that money is unimportant. Edric and I have five kids! Money is necessary and very much welcome whenever it comes. What I am saying is that starting off with a small home and having a very limited budget to work with when we were newly married was a blessing. It was God’s master plan for our character development.

From this genesis Edric and I grew to understand that God always takes care of his children. We also learned that abundance is not the condition for true joy. True joy is to know God and his love for us, to be certain that his plans for our welfare are always for our good.

What is a big house without God in the hearts of those who live in it? And conversely, the tiniest of spaces can be home to the richest people on earth — people who abound with the joy of the Lord, who can laugh, cry, and love without fear, who extend forgiveness and grace to one another, who can sleep peacefully at night, and wake up with hopeful expectation and the gift of new mercies.

With just a few weeks left till we are finally in our “dream home”, a house that only God could’ve built and provided for, I want to remember that real wealth is the treasure of Jesus Christ. It is not the absence of struggle or the fulfillment of desire. It is the recognition and enjoyment of His presence with the ones we cherish the most, and finding that we can be fully satisfied during seasons of want and seasons of plenty because he is with us, in our home, and in our hearts.

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